by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
In Houston and Denver, district schools have adopted some of the successful strategies used by charter schools.
In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular public schools. Working with Roland G. Fryer, a researcher at Harvard who studies the racial achievement gap, Houston officials last year embraced five key tenets of such charters at nine district secondary schools; this fall, they are expanding the program to 11 elementary schools. A similar effort is beginning in Denver.
Traditional public schools often discount the “laboratory of innovation” function of charter schools, so do not expect this to be a common phenomenon. Most district school leaders, particularly in North Carolina, believe that adoption of a charter initiated reform is an admission of failure. Fortunately, school officials in Houston and Denver refuse to allow ego to get in the way of good ideas.