A recent article in The Economist praises charter schools’ flexibility:
Charter schools have been successful because they offer freedom to shape the school to the pupils, rather than the other way round. Schools can change the length of the school day, fire bad teachers and spend their money as they wish. At Harvest Prep the school year is continuous, with short and relatively frequent bursts of holiday, because that keeps learning on track and kids out of trouble.
“Charting a better course: Charter schools raise educational standards for vulnerable children”, The Economist, July 7, 2012.
Summarizing recent studies of charter schools:
First, the children who most need charters have been served well. Credo finds that students in poverty and English language learners fare better in charters. And a national “meta-analysis” of research, done last year for the Centre on Reinventing Public Education in Seattle, found charters were better at teaching elementary-school reading and mathematics, and middle-school mathematics. High-school charters, though, fared worse. Another recent study in Massachusetts for the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that urban charter schools are shown to be effective for minorities, poor students and low achievers.
In some cities, charter school enrollment is very high: 44% in Washington, D.C. and two thirds in New Orleans. Nationally, enrollment is less than 4%, and the article notes that it may take a long time that figure to change significantly.