Charter High Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap
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Part 1: Common Themes in Profiled Close-the-Gap Charter Secondary Schools

Each of the charter schools presented here is progressing toward its student academic achievement goals and each has promising practices to share. Yet, as a group, those involved with these schools—dedicated teachers, motivated leaders, hard-working students, and committed families and communities—share a continued sense of urgency, the prevailing attitude being, "We can do better every day." Together they are creating a learning environment where the "work hard to get smart" adage applies not just to students but to the entire school community.

Unlike most public schools, which tend to conform to some fairly traditional models, must follow district and state guidelines, and can find themselves mired in bureaucratic procedures, charter schools are, by definition, free to innovate. Each school profiled herein has certain characteristics that set it apart from the other seven (e.g., one operates as a boarding school, while another offers exclusively student-driven, project-based learning). Yet in their drive to close the achievement gap and ready students for success in college and other postsecondary endeavors, these eight charter schools have incorporated some common "best practice" elements—elements that would benefit any public school.

Common Themes Among The Schools Profiled

Driven by Mission
Relentless focus on goals
Supportive culture

Focused on College Preparation
Rigorous curriculum
Real-world experiences

Teaching for Mastery
Remediation and acceleration
Data-driven teaching

Wraparound Student Support
Easily accessible adult support
Family commitment
Demystifying the college-going experience

Valuing Professional Learning
Principals as instructional leaders
Teachers learning together
Teacher induction and retention

Holding Themselves Accountable
Sound fiscal management
Dedicated boards
Continuous improvement

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Last Modified: 11/18/2009