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Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education [Kindle Edition]

Chester E. Finn , Bruno V. Manno , Gregg Vanourek
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Few have studied the issue of charter schools for as long or as closely as Chester E. Finn Jr., Bruno V. Manno, and Gregg Vanourek. The product of several years of analysis and detailed case studies, Charter Schools in Action is a comprehensive look at the various laws, policies, and personalities that make up this fledgling reform effort. Parents, teachers, policymakers, and especially potential charter school owners will find the information invaluable. In fact, Finn, Manno--both former U.S. secretaries of education--and Vanourek have so thoroughly documented their research that the book threatens at times to bury the reader beneath a mass of facts, figures, and graphs. Still, this is no dry tome. Interviews with superintendents and school owners are combined with detailed features of schools, students, and parents, many of which paint a rosy portrait of the program. There is no mistaking the enthusiasm and passion these men share for charter schools--they contend that they are one of the last hopes for renewing public education, and they want them to succeed. They do their best to dispel negative notions of the program, such as the complaint that they tend to underserve disabled children and that they rob funds from traditional public schools. And when they do point out problems, they also offer prescriptions for healthy change, arguing, for example, for better accountability and a built-in system of checks and balances. Charter Schools in Action is simply a must for anyone who seeks a solid understanding of the subject. --Jodi Mailander Farrell

From Booklist

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 2935 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 31, 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0049MNW9G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #946,216 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charter Schools in Action Gets An A March 12, 2000
Charter Schools in Action is a timely and thoughtful work that makes an important contribution to America's education debate.
Finn, Manno and Vanourek provide a well-researched study of the operation and promise of the charter school phenomenon. By mixing interviews conducted at dozens of charter schools throughout the country along with their empirical data, they provide real-life anecdotes that give the reader a better understanding of the ways in which charter schools compare to and differ from other educational institutions than do most studies I have read. The inclusion of these profiles makes this book accessible to parents as well as to academic readers.
The timing of this book could not be better. As Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year and as the likely presidential nominees of both major political parties debate whether and how to reform our nation's high schools, it is vital that policy makers understand the strengths and weaknesses of charter schools. Charter Schools in Action provides the reader with information about what charter schools have done well and where they need to improve to help policy makers come to their own conclusions about how this 90's development should fit into our education debate for the new decade. Before anyone jumps to conclude that charter schools are a cure-all or rushes to condemn charter schools as harmful to or incompatible with traditional public education, they should read Charter Schools in Action. And when they do they will come to recognize that the education debate that will occur this year and in the future should be first and foremost about doing what will best prepare America's children, whatever their backgrounds, to compete and achieve in the 21st Century.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GREAT reading, for both newbies and old pros! May 14, 2001
By Gowie
As a strong believer in charter schools, and even more as a parent of a kindergartner who attends a back to basics charter school currently in its fifth year of operation, I chose this book to learn more about this nationwide phenomenon.
This is a book that I would recommend to anyone looking for the most basic information, for anyone interested in starting a charter, or for those who would just like more background.
The authors began gathering their information for a research project, and three and a half years later, ended up with this book. It is packed full of details in an easy to follow and informative manner. Following a brief introduction, subsequent chapters are logically arranged. If reading the whole book is not for you, you can easily find what you are looking for. It also contains about 2 dozen tables and short surveys, if you enjoy this sort of thing.
A number of things I particularly liked: 1) the 5 "field trips" where the authors visited 5 different charter schools--small/large, urban/suburban, progressive/traditional, profit/non-profit, and even a "virtual" (online) school; 2) the way the book is written, not so much in a textbook manner (which would have been boring); 3) the detailed comparisons between different state laws, which can make or break the charter schools.
I do have the impression that the authors are pro-charter, although they listed plenty of negatives and accurately presented both sides of all issues. However, I may be reading into it my own favoritisms.
Overall, a good, strong book that I'm glad I picked up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish they'd release an updated version! January 16, 2010
I did an in-depth research paper on charter schools for my college English class last semester, and I just happened to pick this book up from the library. I cannot believe how much it helped me. I usually try to stick with more recent books because I figure that since there are so many books on the subject of charter schools, I need to read the most recent ones because they're probably going to be the most applicable to the situation today. However, I'm glad that I broke that rule and read this book from 2001. I will say that the statistics on charter schools were of course completely wrong, and there is nothing in there about the Race to the Top initiative or anything else that has recently been put in place.

Despite that major drawback, this was an excellent book to read because it gave such a good foundation (for me at least) of how the charter school movement got started, where it went, and where the authors hoped to see it go in the future. It was rather depressing to read what they hoped would be in place by 2010 - we're nowhere even close, although we are closer than we were in 2001, of course.

Just as a side note: When I was doing the research for this paper, I would take small post-it notes and mark pages with interesting passages that I could quote in my paper or items that I wanted to research further. When I finished this book, I had 87 post-it notes lining the edge of the book. I think that says it all.

My only complaint is the date. Would the authors consider doing a new and updated version? I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I think this book is the gold standard in charter school books. If you want to read a book to give you great background information on the subject, make this one it!
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