School Choice in the Real World: Lessons from Arizona Charter Schools

By Robert Maranto; Scott Milliman et al. | Go to book overview

was through ninety-day letters that provided basic information about the financial health of the charter schools. However, in the 1997-1998 school year, the SBCS granted twenty-two charter schools waivers from the US- FRCS. This ruling dramatically decreased the role of the auditor general. For the charter schools that received a waiver from the USFRCS, the sponsoring board assumed responsibility for monitoring financial compliance. The charter school legislation was specific that the auditor general was required to notify charter school staff if they did not comply with the US- FRCS, and the staff members from the auditor general's office established a formal line of communication with the sponsoring agency through the ninety-day letters. But, if the charter school did not have to follow that accounting form, the auditor general lost jurisdiction, and the SBCS assumed responsibility for financial oversight. Whether or not the administrative staff for the sponsoring boards had the training or whether board members had the time or expertise to monitor the financial health of charter schools was unclear. However, they clearly did not have the same level of skills or time as the professionals who performed this work in the auditor general's office.


Conclusion and Recommendations for Policy Makers

In a market-based system customers need reliable information to make sound purchase decisions. For example, an individual would be in a better position to purchase an automobile if s/he had basic safety, quality, and performance data from an independent evaluator rather than from a sales- person in a showroom. From 1995 through 1998, safety, quality, and performance information about Arizona charter schools was in short supply. Key political actors, including Senator Huppenthal, the chairman of the senate Education Committee, recognized the performance reporting problem:

To make that purchase decision something that means something, they have to have maximum information, so the things that I focused on that we don't have yet are academic productivity and quality ratings and, to a lesser extent, student quality ratings and teacher job satisfaction. If you know those things; I think you know a tremendous amount about the quality of the school. Right now, we don't have any of that data. So right now, in terms of any kind of data that's available on schools, almost all of the data that we have now in my mind is worthless, so right now we have no way of keeping score. None of the methods right now, none of the data we have right now coming in has a whole lot of value for someone making a purchase decision. ( Huppenthal interview 1998).

Test scores, however fallible, were one source of information about school performance available. Parents and sponsoring board members

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School Choice in the Real World: Lessons from Arizona Charter Schools
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1: Real World School Choice: Arizona Charter Schools 1
  • Notes 15
  • References 15
  • PART ONE Theoretical and National Perspectives 17
  • 2: And This Parent Went to Market: Education as Public Versus Private Good 19
  • Notes 35
  • Notes 36
  • 3: The Death of One Best Way: Charter Schools as Reinventing Government 39
  • Notes 55
  • References 55
  • 4: Congress and Charter Schools 58
  • Notes 65
  • Notes 67
  • 5: Charter Schools: A National Innovation, an Arizona Revolution 68
  • Notes 92
  • References 92
  • PART TWO Social Scientists Look at Arizona Charter Schools 97
  • 6: The Wild West of Education Reform: Arizona Charter Schools 99
  • References 114
  • 7: Why Arizona Embarked on School Reform (and Nevada Did Not) 115
  • References 127
  • 8: Do Charter Schools Improve District Schools? Three Approaches to the Question 129
  • Notes 139
  • Notes 140
  • 9: Closing Charters: How a Good Theory Failed in Practice 142
  • Conclusion and Recommendations for Policy Makers 156
  • Notes 158
  • References 158
  • 10: Nothing New: Curricula in Arizona Charter Schools 159
  • References 172
  • 11: How Arizona Teachers View School Reform 173
  • Notes 184
  • References 184
  • PART THREE Practitioners Look at Arizona Charter Schools 187
  • 12: The Empowerment of Market-Based School Reform 189
  • Notes 197
  • References 197
  • 13: A Voice from the State Legislature: Don'T Do What Arizona Did! 198
  • Notes 210
  • References 210
  • 14: Public Schools and the Charter Movement: An Emerging Relationship 212
  • Notes 220
  • References 220
  • 15: Whose Idea Was This Anyway? The Challenging Metamorphosis from Private to Charter 222
  • Notes 233
  • References 233
  • PART FOUR Lessons 235
  • 16: In Lieu of Conclusions: Tentative Lessons from a Contested Frontier 237
  • References 247
  • About the Editors and Contributors 249
  • Index 253
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