James V. Shuls, Ph.D.
My last three posts noted that charter schools have shown fairly steady improvement over the past three years. Moreover, with the now closed Imagine schools removed from the data, charter schools outperform their neighboring districts. Though the failure of the Imagine schools is a sad story, closing a bad school is a hallmark of a good school choice program. Schools that excel should be rewarded with more students attending them and they should grow. Low-quality schools should close. Those students will then be able to choose a different school that meets their needs better than their former school.

Ironically, though Imagine schools closed, they were not the lowest-performing schools in Saint Louis. In fact, 41 Saint Louis public schools had proficient and advanced percentages that were lower than Imagine College Prep High in communication arts. In math, 22 Saint Louis public schools scored lower than Imagine Academy of Environmental Science and Math. Yet these schools remain open.

The coming year should be a banner year for charter schools throughout the state. With the closure of the Imagine schools and the steady improvement of existing charter schools, I expect to see significant gains in overall charter performance in 2013.

So what is next for Missouri charter schools?

It seems unlikely too much will happen in the Missouri Legislature regarding charter schools because they passed a bill last session allowing universities to sponsor charters in all unaccredited districts and districts that have been provisionally accredited for three years. Additionally, the bill allows school districts to sponsor their own charter school within their district. Hopefully, some districts will take advantage of this and offer more options to their students.

Though it is unlikely lawmakers will extend the right to sponsor charters throughout the state to universities in the next session, there is potential to expand options for some students. The state could begin allowing virtual charter schools to enroll students statewide. This would provide a great service to students in areas that traditionally do not have educational options and would be a real benefit to the state.

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.