20 years of chartered schools

September 7, 2012 • Lars Esdal

On this date in 1992, City Academy High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, opened its doors to students as the first chartered school in the United States. The school is still operating, and serves at-risk students in Saint Paul’s East Side just as it had two decades ago.

Of course, passing the law that made possible City Academy, and all the chartered schools that followed, was an ordeal in itself.

The detailed story of the events which led up to Minnesota’s passage of the first chartering law in the county is told in vigorous prose by Ember Reichgott Junge in her new book, Zero Chance of Passage. Reichgott Junge was the chief author of the enabling legislation in the Minnesota Senate, and gives great credit to Ted Kolderie and other Education Evolving associates for their work leading up to enactment of that landmark bill in 1991.

Over the past 20 years, it has been heartening to see the successes being achieved by many teacher-centered, innovative charter schools. After all, that was the purpose of the original chartering law: to create “different and innovative” schools. Charlie Kyte’s recent report to the Hewlett Foundation — published by EE — examines two schools which are high performing on several dimensions.

Of course, an anniversary like today’s offers an occasion not just to reflect on the historical event of City Academy’s opening. It gives us also a suitable chance to take stock of what has happened in the intervening years with chartering, and to consider its future. We at Education Evolving have been thinking about these topics a lot, and will be circulating our observations and ideas in the very near future. Please stay tuned.