Charter Schools in Action

Published January 1, 1998

Last July, the Hudson Institute completed the publication of a six-part final report on its Charter Schools in Action project, a two-year study of the start-up problems and impact of charter schools. (See “Charter Schools Receive High Ratings,” School Reform News, September 1997.) The key findings of each report, all authored by Chester E. Finn, Bruno V. Manno, Gregg Vanourek, and Louann A. Bierlein, are summarized below.


“Part I: Charter Schools as Seen by Those Who Know Them Best: Students, Teachers, and Parents”

  • Charter schools are very popular with their primary constituents.
  • Families and teachers seek out charter schools primarily for educational reasons and are highly satisfied with them.
  • Teachers feel empowered.

Start-up and Operation

“Part II: The Birth-Pains and Life-Cycles of Charter Schools”

  • Most problems occur in the first year, with fewer in later years.
  • Problems with funding and facilities are ongoing.

Policy Issues

“Part III: The Policy Perils of Charter Schools”

  • At-risk children at charter schools don’t get federal and state aid.
  • States aren’t helping secure resources for capital, start-up, or categorical aid.


“Part IV: Charter School Accountability: Problems and Prospects”

  • Accountability systems remain underdeveloped.
  • Good accountability systems provide early warnings of trouble.
  • Excessive accountability systems may detract from a school’s mission.

Educational Impact

“Part V: The Educational Impact of Charter Schools”

  • Charter schools serve disadvantaged and educationally needy students.
  • At-risk students are making achievement gains in charter schools.
  • Public schools are responding to competition and innovations from charter schools.

Lessons and Implications

“Part VI: How Charter Schools are Different: Lessons and Implications”

  • There is no single charter school model.
  • Charter schools point to important ways to improve and reinvent public education.