Canadian Charter Schools Study Released

canadian-charter-schools-study-released

A report on Alberta’s public charter schools will be released March 1st. Canadian Charter Schools at the Crossroads (207 pg.) provides the findings of a comprehensive two-year study conducted through the University of Calgary under principal researcher, Dr. Lynn Bosetti, Special Assistant to the Vice President, Academic. Bosetti offers a comprehensive review of the state of charter schools five years after the experiment was introduced by the Alberta government. The study examines the early performance of these new public schools, barriers to their success, and their relations with the school system at large. This report follows the study’s Initial Report in November 1998. Canadian Charter Schools at the Crossroads provides extensive profiles of nine charter schools, including analysis of the views of teachers, parents, students, and board members on the educational programs and operations of their school. Bosetti synthesizes findings across school sites to assess overall administration, achievement and accountability. The report concludes with recommendations for improving the legislative framework. Among the report’s key findings:
– evidence of improved student achievement
– most schools are fully subscribed and a number have lengthy waiting lists
– 82% of parents intend to keep their children enrolled
– parents express strongest satisfaction with the quality/methods of teaching, academic
– standards, small class sizes, and individual attention to students
– some obstacles such as financial handicaps and governance issues are being resolved
– the number of schools has remained small

The report notes the support network for charter schools is very thin, and that there is little sharing of charter school practices and/or innovations. School districts are singled out in the report for their general reluctance to work with charter schools, approve new applications or renew existing school charters. “The design of charter school legislation is crucial to the long-term viability of this innovation,” Bosetti warns. “If charter schools are to serve as a vehicle for educational reform, the bottleneck at the school district level must be overcome.” The report recommends significant changes to the legislation, now under review by the government. The Society for Advancement of Excellence in Education provided a grant for the research which was modelled after large-scale studies of 1,700 charter schools in the USA serving 250,000 students.