20 years later charter schools closing achievement gap

Monday, July 1, 2013

When Massachusetts’ landmark Education Reform Act was signed into law 20 years ago, attention was mainly focused on the massive commitment of state resources and the tough new accountability measures. The creation of charter public schools might have seemed almost an afterthought.

But today, it is charter schools that are driving education reform in Massachusetts. Even after two decades of success, many challenges still lie ahead. Now is not the time to retreat from the reforms on which our success was built.

The first 14 charter schools opened in 1995. Today, 76 charters educate about 3.3 percent of Massachusetts’ public school population.

But that growth hasn’t been nearly enough to keep up with demand. Twenty-five new charter schools have been authorized in just three years since Massachusetts increased the cap on the number of students who could attend charters in the commonwealth’s worst-performing school districts. Even with the increase in charter seats, there were still more students on waitlists than attending charter schools in Massachusetts during the 2012-2013 school year.

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