Cover image for Charter schools in action : renewing public education
Charter schools in action : renewing public education
Finn, Chester E., Jr., 1944-
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. ; Oxford : Princeton University Press, [2000]

(2001 [printing])

Physical Description:
xxi, 290 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1350 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
LB2806.36 .F527 2000C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Can charter schools save public education? This radical question has unleashed a flood of opinions from Americans struggling with the contentious challenges of education reform. There has been plenty of heat over charter schools and their implications, but, until now, not much light. This important new book supplies plenty of illumination.

Charter schools--independently operated public schools of choice--have existed in the United States only since 1992, yet there are already over 1,500 of them. How are they doing? Here prominent education analysts Chester Finn, Bruno Manno, and Gregg Vanourek offer the richest data available on the successes and failures of this exciting but controversial approach to education reform. After studying one hundred schools, interviewing hundreds of participants, surveying thousands more, and analyzing the most current data, they have compiled today's most authoritative, comprehensive explanation and appraisal of the charter phenomenon. Fact-filled, clear-eyed, and hard-hitting, this is the book for anyone concerned about public education and interested in the role of charter schools in its renewal.

Can charter schools boost student achievement, drive educational innovation, and develop a new model of accountability for public schools? Where did the idea of charter schools come from? What would the future hold if this phenomenon spreads? These are some of the questions that this book answers. It addresses pupil performance, enrollment patterns, school start-up problems, charges of inequity, and smoldering political battles. It features close-up looks at five real--and very different--charter schools and two school districts that have been deeply affected by the charter movement, including their setbacks and triumphs. After outlining a new model of education accountability and describing how charter schools often lead to community renewal, the authors take the reader on an imaginary tour of a charter-based school system.

Charter schools are the most vibrant force in education today. This book suggests that their legacy will consist not only of helping millions of families obtain a better education for their children but also in renewing American public education itself.

Author Notes

Chester E. Finn, Jr. is President of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. As a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, he directed the "Charter Schools in Action" project. From 1985 to 1988, he served as Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education. Finn is the author or editor of hundreds of articles and a dozen books on education issues, including The Educated Child: A Parent's Guide , which he coauthored with William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb, Jr. Bruno V. Manno is Senior Fellow in Education at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Policy and Planning. Gregg Vanourek , who has served as Vice President for Programs at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute, is an M.B.A. candidate at the Yale School of Management.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Finn and his coauthors have held education policy positions during Republican administrations and at think tanks of a conservative stripe, so it's no surprise they see enormous potential in charter schools. Still, even readers leery of this high-visibility educational reform movement can learn much from their study, which blends theory, analysis, polling, case studies, and assessment. Defining "charter schools" as "independent public schools of choice, freed from rules but accountable for results," they distinguish these schools from the true privatization that vouchers represent. The authors describe specific schools, examine charter schools' achievements, and consider "the accountability puzzle." They identify and respond to 10 major criticisms before addressing the political context in which charter schools develop and the results these schools are producing--in and out of the classroom and within their sponsoring systems. The authors believe charter schools can, with proper monitoring and support, overcome urban school systems' tendency toward bureaucracy and command-and-control regulation. In place of rigid controls, the authors would let the market (and transparency) rule. --Mary Carroll

Table of Contents

List of Tablesp. vii
List of Interviews and Profilesp. ix
Preface to the Paperback Editionp. xi
Introductionp. 3
Part I Charter Schools In Action
Chapter 1 What's a "Charter School"?p. 13
Chapter 2 Field Tripsp. 23
Chapter 3 Where Did They Come From?p. 53
Chapter 4 How Are They Working?p. 74
Chapter 5 Trials by Firep. 100
Chapter 6 The Accountability Puzzlep. 127
Part II Renewing Public Education
Chapter 7 The Case against Charter Schools: A Ten-Count Indictmentp. 151
Chapter 8 Political Battlegroundsp. 169
Chapter 9 Beyond the Schoolhouse Door: Changing Systemsp. 192
Chapter 10 Beyond the Schoolhouse Door: Building Communitiesp. 220
Chapter 11 The Great Issuesp. 237
Chapter 12 Will Charter Schools Save Public Education?p. 248
Epiloguep. 265
Appendix Survey Results and Methodologyp. 269
Indexp. 281