Research: Charter Schools in California…a little history

The second section of the Review of Literature of my dissertation was about charter schools and in particular, charter schools in California.  The idea of modern charter schools grew out of the “school choice” movement that was first theorized by Milton Friedman in 1955.   In the 1960s and 1970s, the roots of the charter and choice movement gained greater favor when school choice programs emerged as magnet schools to facilitate voluntary desegregation (Hill & Jochim, 2009).  The concept of “charter” schools is generally credited to New England educator Ray Budde (Fuller, 2000). Budde suggested that groups of teachers be given contracts or “charters” by their local school boards to explore new approaches.  Albert Shanker, past president of the American Federation for Teachers, also receives credit for helping move the charter school concept along in the late 1980s when he suggested teachers should have more leadership roles in schools.  Charter ideas gained further traction in the book, Politics, Markets and America’s Schools (Chubb and Moe, 1990).  They stated, that “choice offers an array of institutional possibilities, not a determinate formula”.

Charter school law had to be passed at the state level before a charter school could develop.  Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991 and California followed shortly in 1992.  The first charter school developed was City Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1992.  One of the first online charter schools developed in the United States was in southern California and is called Choice 2000 and opened in 1994.

As one looks at charter school research, it is important to note that charter schools are less than 20 years old and therefore, extensive research about charter schools is just beginning to be emerge.  In addition, when asking the question, “Are students successful in charter schools?”, it is important to define the types of charter schools to determine which are more effective.  In 2006, Carpenter (2006) wrote the report, Playing to Type? Mapping the Charter School Landscape, which mapped out the types of charter schools.  Types include: traditional, progressive, vocational, general and alternative with the majority of charter schools falling in the “traditional” and “progressive” type.  This report was written in the midst of the development of online schools.  Huerta, D’Entremont, & Gonzales (2009) further defined the “alternative” type of charter schools and developed a detailed chart that defined the characteristics of cyber schools and home schools in the book,  Handbook of Research on School Choice (pp. 533-554).

Tomorrow…are students successful in charter schools?

My complete dissertation may be downloaded from my wiki.

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