It should be obvious to loyal readers by now that I cannot stop thinking about the Amplify School Choice Conference I attended a couple of weeks ago that was sponsored and organized by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. My biggest takeaway from the information that was presented was that there is a significant amount of cooperation between the traditional and charter schools in Denver where the event was held. Moreover, I was not only told about the ways that the two sectors work together; I witnessed it first-hand during visits to Strive Preparatory and Denver School of Science and Technology Public Charter Schools.
The basis of the link between Denver’s district and charter schools is the District-Charter Collaboration Compact, which I learned from a Thomas B. Fordham Institute study is a Gates Foundation initiative. In late 2015, the Institute published a report by Daniela Doyle, Christen Holly, and Bryan Hassel that examined the relationships between traditional and charter schools in four cities: Boston, Cleveland, Denver, and Washington, D.C. While the authors found a wide variation in the intersection of traditional and choice schools, it did offer some starting points for building a foundation for bringing the two sides closer together.
In the five categories of “Improve Communication,” “Improve Practice,” “Improve Operational Efficiency,” “Provide More Equitable Access to Existing Schools,” and “Increase Supply of High-Quality Schools across the City” the paper includes direct recommendations for forging stronger relationships. Almost all of these specific actions were already in place in Denver such as using a common tool to evaluate all schools, development of a unified enrollment lottery, and the sharing of facilities.
For something that on the surface looked hard initially to implement, I believe the Fordham study and the Denver District Collaboration Compact offer a tremendous basis for building a solid bridge between DCPS and charters.
Now we just have to see if there is a will to move in this direction.