Over the past quarter-century, charter schools have gone from an upstart education experiment to a prominent, promising, and disruptive innovation in K–12 education. Indeed, few observers present at the creation of the first charter schools could have predicted how rapidly this movement would spread or how thoroughly it would come to dominate the education-reform agenda. In Charter Schools at the Crossroads, authors Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bruno V. Manno, and Brandon L. Wright take stock of what chartering has (and hasn’t) accomplished thus far, how to address its present challenges, and what an ambitious and boldly different course for the next twenty-five years would look like. 

From the role of philanthropy to the rise of no-excuses charter schools, they frankly examine the positive and negative consequences of policies and programs, and push sector leaders to do more, do better, and do it differently. They counter the often-oversimplified narrative of the movement’s origins, showing how multiple agendas and intentions led to a cacophony of results. And they address chartering’s many current dilemmas, including the roles of authorizers and operators, challenges in facilities and funding, and the balance between freedom and regulation. Informative and provocative, this book shows the tremendous work accomplished by the charter sector thus far—and how much still remains to be done.

Charter Schools at the Crossroads: Predicaments, Paradoxes, Possibilities is published by Harvard Education Press and is available for purchase on its website or Amazon.

Timeline of Charter School History

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Chester E. Finn, Jr., scholar, educator and public servant, has devoted his career to improving education in the United States. At Fordham, he is now Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus. He’s also a Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

Finn served as Fordham’s President from 1997 to 2014, after many earlier roles in education, academe and government. From 1999 until 2002, he was John M.…

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Bruno V. Manno is a Trustee Emeritus of Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Senior Advisor to the Walton Family Foundation's K-12 Education Reform Initiative. He previously worked as the Senior Program Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland.

Prior to his appointment with the Hudson Institute, Dr. Manno was Assistant Secretary of…

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Brandon Wright is the Editorial Director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He is the coauthor of two books: Failing our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students (with Chester E. Finn, Jr.) and Charter Schools at the Crossroads: …

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