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DENVER -- Leaders in nine communities across the U.S. have signed on to a District-Charter Collaboration Compact, an initiative to highlight new ways that public charter schools and traditional public schools are working to provide high-quality education for all students. Cities committed to the Compact include Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans, New York City, and Rochester, N.Y.
In response to requests by school districts and charter school leaders for such a collaboration, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has supported the development of public agreements in cities where the traditional district schools and public charter schools are eager to work together to share best practices and provide all children in their communities with a public school education that prepares them with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college and the workforce.
“Traditional public schools and public charter schools share a common goal of preparing all students for future success,” said Vicki L. Phillips, director of Education, College Ready, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Too often, issues not tied to academic outcomes can make it difficult for schools and teachers to have the opportunity to learn from each other and build upon successful practices, whether those practices are found in district-run or charter-run schools. We hope this Compact helps to fill a void for these cities and will lead the way for a committed partnership to work together to improve all schools.”
Through the District-Charter Collaboration Compact, districts will commit to replicating high-performing models of traditional and charter public schools while improving or closing down schools that are not serving students well. Additionally, each city Compact addresses contentious and persistent tensions between district and charter schools, and identifies specific opportunities for the two groups to leverage each others’ strengths in pursuit of a common mission.
The Compacts address equity issues that often lead to tensions between district and charter schools, such as whether both district and public charter school students have access to necessary funding and facilities, and whether charter schools are open to all students, including those with special needs and English Language Learners. Several cities’ Compacts also include commitments among district and charter partners to jointly develop a shared approach to school enrollment, co-develop measures of effective teaching, align the district’s curriculum to the Common Core State Standards, and share access to school data systems. Each city Compact is signed by the district superintendent and multiple charter school leaders, with support from other partners in the city, such as the city’s mayor, local teachers’ unions, and school board members. Each of these cities will be eligible for a modest investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the work outlined in the Compact.
“Leading cities in the country are already working on many of these issues,” said Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. “The Compacts create a formal collaboration to help put the difficult issues on the table and to recognize a group of leading cities that are demonstrating what cross-sector collaboration should look like in every city.”
“The Compacts provide common ground for districts and charters to share best practices and scale up what’s working,” said Chris Gibbons, CEO of West Denver Prep, a high-performing charter operator in Denver. “We have so much we can learn from each other to raise the achievement of all students in our communities, and we’re excited to be part of this collaborative effort.”
The District-Charter Collaboration Compact is part of an ongoing dialogue between traditional public schools and charter schools. In addition, a second cohort of cities that are developing District-Charter Collaboration Compacts will be announced in April 2011. In the coming months, cities that have developed Compacts will be eligible to compete for a larger, multi-million dollar grant to work collaboratively to accelerate student achievement across their cities.
The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington will publish annual reports to measure the overall progress of the participating cities and outline the steps being taken to ensure proper implementation.