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How does the policy environment impact charter schools?

by Jan. 26, 2011, 4:09 PM

Charter schools and mayoral control are both hot topics in education reform.  Indiana combined these reform strategies when enacting a new charter school law in 2001.  Under the law, the mayor of Indianapolis was granted authorizing authority to charter schools in the Indianapolis Public Schools district, as well as 10 surrounding districts within metro Indianapolis.  The question is often asked “Do charter schools work.” A better question would be “In what context do charter schools work?”

The newly published research brief from the National Center on School Choice at Vanderbilt, Taking Charge of Choice: How Charter School Policy Contexts Matter, by Claire Smrekar explores the policy context surrounding the development of this law.  In order to do this, in-depth interviews were conducted with key stakeholders and documents were analyzed relating to the period of charter school law adoption in Indiana.  The main findings reported in this study were that many diverse elements came together to create the unique policy environment in Indiana including public collective action, trust between institutions, and investment from entities outside the city government.  In Indianapolis, increased civic capacity led to the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Charter Schools to oversee authorization and accountability.

Claire Smrekar is associate professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development. The National Center on School Choice’s research briefs are designed to make research projects and papers more readily accessible to policymakers, the general public (including parents and educators), and other stakeholders in education.