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Choices and Challenges: Charter School Performance in Perspective [Paperback]

Priscilla Wohlstetter , Joanna Smith , Caitlin C. Farrell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 2013 1612505414 978-1612505411
As charter schools enter their third decade, research in this key sector remains overwhelmingly contradictory and confused. Many studies are narrowly focused; some do not meet the standards for high-quality academic research. In this definitive work, Wohlstetter and her colleagues isolate and distill the high-quality research on charter schools to identify the contextual and operational factors that influence these schools' performances.

The authors examine the track record of the charter sector in light of the wide range of goals set for these schools in state authorizing legislation--at the classroom level, the level of the school community, and system-wide. In particular, they show how the evolution of the charter movement has shaped research questions and findings.

By highlighting what we know about the conditions for success in charter schools, the authors make a significant contribution to current debates in policy and practice, both within the charter sector and in the larger landscape of public education.

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Editorial Reviews


Choices and Challenges serves a broad audience--scholars, practitioners, and the general public--that follows education issues. It offers valuable guidance for policy makers concerning charter issues, but does not presume to recommend what decisions should be made. I know I will find it an invaluable resource in my role as a state official. --From the foreword by Michael W. Kirst, president, California State Board of Education, and professor emeritus, education and business administration, Stanford University

About the Author

Priscilla Wohlstetter is distinguished research professor in the department of education policy and social analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a senior research fellow with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Joanna Smith is an assistant research professor at USC's Rossier School of Education and assistant director of the Center on Educational Governance. Caitlin C. Farrell is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Education Press (March 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612505414
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612505411
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #673,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased, Comprehensive, & Up-to-date October 11, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Choices and Challenges is an unbiased, comprehensive, up-to-date review of research on charter schools. It is an excellent resource for educators, policymakers, parents, researchers, and anyone else with a stake in charter school policy. This is the best review of charter school research that I have found. It is thorough (Wohlstetter, Smith, and Farrell reviewed the full text of more than 500 research articles) yet concise and readable, balancing well the goals of summarizing research trends without covering up variation in findings. The authors consider a wide range of questions that recognize charter schools' multiple goals, including not only improving student performance but also encouraging teacher leadership, fostering innovation, and increasing parent involvement. Policy debates and media reports on charter schools would do well to broaden their focus to look at more of these questions.

It is worth reiterating that this review of research is remarkably impartial. This may be frustrating to charter school supporters and detractors looking for a research review that will confirm their views on the sector, but it's also a central strength of the book. Wohlstetter, Smith, and Farrell offer a clear overview of the research that should be useful to people across the spectrum of enthusiasm versus skepticism towards charter schools.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly useful resource for district and charter educators September 22, 2013
"Choices and Challenges: Charter School Performance in Perspective," by Wohlstetter, Smith and Farrell is a must read for K-12 Superintendents and School Board Members. The writers provide an excellent review of the evolution of charter schools, charter school policy, and a strong value statement about the relationship between charter authorizer behavior and charter school quality. As a former k-12 district superintendent, I would recommend this scholarly piece to district teams responsible for reviewing new charter school applications, evaluation of current charters and when reviewing applications for renewal. The writers provide solid insights that inform practice and strengthen the knowledge base of educators. Maggie Carrillo Mejia, Phd
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5.0 out of 5 stars Educating Yourself About Charters September 12, 2013
If you are raising school kids or raised them and watched them go off to raise kids of their own, you have heard of "charter" schools. But you probably don't know that enrollment has more than quadrupled since charter schools began appearing on the education horizon in the 1990s. Or that more than 500 new charter schools opened in 2011-2012. There are now about 5,600 of them in 41 states and the District of Columbia.
They may have seemed to have come out of nowhere, but in fact they have a complex history, which is clearly laid out in Choices & Challenges. Unlike the cheerleaders and the critics who argue in local school board meetings, the authors of this book are interested in enlightening, not promoting or denouncing. To find out what that word "charter" means and what it tries to deliver, read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Important Resource on Charter School Research September 10, 2013
In this book, the authors have provided us with a valuable, concise, and clear analysis of the current state of charter schools and charter research. For anyone interested in charter schools - whether as a researcher, educator, policymaker, or parent - this is an essential addition to your library.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Examination of Charter School Education September 2, 2013
In my home town (Washington, DC) 60 charter schools maintain 108 campuses and are enrolling almost 35,000 students. Is this the fad du jour, reflecting widespread disgust with the DC public schools, or can students and parents reasonably hope for better education in charters. Professor Wohlstetter and her colleagues take a hard look at the phenomenon (not just in DC) and shed much-needed light about what we know and don't know. A worthy and provocative book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Identifying the gap in charter research August 29, 2013
After twenty years of charter schooling, the research literature is voluminous, but much of it is contradictory and confusing--not to mention politically motivated. With this in mind, Columbia University professor Priscilla Wohlstetter and her colleagues set out to separate the empirical wheat from the ideological chaff and review more than a decade of charter school literature to show how charters have progressed.

While the authors can, through their synthesis of high-quality studies, tell us much about accountability (more schools close due to mismanagement than from their failure in the marketplace) and the unintended consequences of charters (re-segregation, but not widespread, and not unanticipated), the book is important especially for telling readers what we still don't know about the charter sector.

Consider the key issue of performance: Most charter research analyzes student achievement, but it generally consists of student snapshots and is devoid of the large-scale, random-control studies that are the gold standard. As a result, we're left with contradictory evidence on how well charter students perform and inconclusive findings on how various factors like autonomy affect school outcomes. But by identifying this gap of knowledge, the authors map out new possibilities for research: How are charters using their autonomy, and what keeps them from exercising their freedom? Which academic programs are most successful at raising student achievement, and do they differ much from those offered at traditional schools?

Now that charter movement is older and larger (2.3 million children currently being educated), questions such as these will become increasingly critical, and this guide will take future school-choice explorers far.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource on charter school research
Two decades after the first public charter school opened in Minnesota, and now that there are more than 6,000 charter schools in operation, the timing is right for a comprehensive... Read more
Published 10 months ago by ACN
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource
Discussions of charter schools proliferate the mainstream media, creating a fair amount of hype around charter schools, which are often framed as the "answer" to the "problems"... Read more
Published 10 months ago by KSS
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful resource for scholars and policy makers
Choices and Challenges is an extremely useful addition to the literature on charter schools. While others have tried to synthesize the widely varied research on charters in the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by MBN
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading even for those not in educational field
Choices and Challenges synthesizes and analyzes existing research on charter schools in a way that makes it accessible and useful to an audience both inside and outside of the... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Midwestern Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Compelling Book
This book provides a comprehensive overview of the charter school movement, highlighting salient issues that have developed over the 20-year history. Read more
Published 10 months ago by B.F.
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and useful read
I found this text to be the high-quality, comprehensive, and informative review on charter school research that I was looking for. Read more
Published 10 months ago by T.L.W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and interesting read
This book was Very thorough, interesting and informative read. I would definitely recommend this book to others interested in charter school education.
Published 11 months ago by S. Kazantsev
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