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Monday, February 13, 2017

Introducing the Minnesota School Choice Project

In 1991, Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law. Today, despite continual controversy over their academic impact and educational role, there were over two hundred charter schools in the state, with more opening every year.

It's also here in Minnesota that many of the ideas underlying modern charter schools were forged, by civic organizations, policy scholars, and politicians. As an early adopter, the state has often served as a testing ground for political tactics and policy measures related to educational reform. And the Minnesota charter sector is unusually fragmented, representing the range of forms charter schools can take. Our charters run the gamut from remedial institutions for children of color, to online-only schools, to suburban classical academies. Minnesota also continues to experiment with new types of charter regulation, such as by adopting unusual and controversial policies for school accreditation. 

The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity has produced several previous studies of Minnesota charter schools, focusing on school segregation and performance. These studies reflected a broader national debate about whether charters improved test outcomes. However, as charter schools have expanded nationally, more than their academic accomplishments are coming under scrutiny. Today, the debate over charterization extends far beyond performance alone. Recent reporting and research has raised questions about who these schools serve, how they are funded, how they are regulated, and their role in education politics. 

To contribute to the answering of these wider questions, the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity is launching a new research initiative. Called The Minnesota School Choice Project, it will take a look at the state’s charter school industry from a variety of perspectives. This research is intended to provide new insight into the effectiveness and impact of charter schools in the state, and serve as a launching ground for a more robust understanding of the role charter schools play in the educational ecosystem, both in Minnesota and nationwide. Project results will be released in six parts, each bringing quantitative and qualitative analysis to specific subjects related to charter schools. These are as follows: 

Part II: Special Education and Discipline 

Part III: Screening 

Part IV: Funding and Expenditures 

Part V: Charter Authorizers 

Part VI: The Future of Charter School Politics 

Additional data, news analysis, case studies, and continuing commentary will also be provided on the Institute’s new website and this blog.

The first part, which talks about how and why charters have acted as the leading edge of school segregation in the Twin Cities, is out today. We'll be pulling out its key points to discuss on this blog in the coming days, and you can read the whole thing here.

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