Can standards for charter schools improve their performance?

A coalition of groups announced today the publication of new national standards for charter schools. Here’s the lead of the press release:

A coalition of leaders in the national charter movement is today announcing the culmination of a four-year, federally-funded project titled Building  Charter School Quality (BCSQ) that has resulted in the development of national standards on charter school quality, and nationwide progress based on those standards.”

Already, charters are supposed to live up to the same standards as traditional public schools, but be subject to more stringent accountability. That is, they live and die by state standardized test scores. (For an interesting look at charters that have shut down, check out this study by the pro-charter group, Center for Education Reform.)

Many charters, especially those in urban centers that require a lottery to get in, do phenomenally well. Nevertheless, national studies have shown that, overall, charter school performance isn’t any better than that of traditional public schools. One of those studies was conducted by CREDO at Stanford, which is a sponsor of the new charter standards.

The idea behind these standards is similar to the idea that drove the development of the Common Core State Standards: creating common standards will help schools and districts know what they should be working toward and will lift up all boats. The key is in implementation, however. Only time will tell if these standards make a difference in ensuring high quality across the board, where current accountability measures (which differ by state) apparently have not.