How Do Districts Respond To Charters?

From Ed Next:

Where school districts once responded (to charter schools) with indifference, symbolic gestures, or open hostility, we are starting to see a broadening of responses, perhaps fueled by acceptance that the charter sector will continue to thrive, or by knowledge that many charters are providing examples of ways to raise academic achievement.

Traditional public schools are aware of the threats posed by alternative education providers, but they are analyzing the moves made by competitors and demonstrating that they may have the savvy to reflect, replicate, experiment, and enter into partnerships with school choice providers.

This evidence suggests that while bureaucratic change may often be slow, it may be a mistake to underestimate the capacity of these bureaucratic institutions to reform, adapt, and adjust in light of changing environments.

This chart compares 12 cities and their responses to charter school growth. 

I think the authors are generally correct.  Three observations:

1. Trust is personal.  There's no other way.  Kevin Andrews, a local charter leader, paved the way for a better relationship with the Boston superintendent, just through his sheer personal outreach.  Then, building on what he'd achieved, Gates Foundation was able to further push detente with their grants for charter-district collaboration. 

2. It's usually a bit easier to make replication of best practices happen by collaborating with an out-of-town charter partner.  It bypasses existing friction.  For example, Houston superintendent Terry Grier worked with Match as part of our effort there, led by EdLabs.  I'd been in some meetings with Terry and the leaders of the top Houston charters, YES and KIPP, and they had (understandably) some tension.  Match was safely far away in Boston. 

Similarly, Boston Public Schools is about to replicate an aspect of Match, the full-time math tutor model, as part of their turnaround schools.  Will they partner with us?  Nope.  Not bad blood, but still it creates more internal (You're working with them?) challenges that needed.  Instead, BPS will partner with the folks from Houston!  Full circle. 

3. The tone is set by the Mayor.  Five of the candidates to become Boston's next mayor are pro-charter, while at least 4 are not.