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American Educator, v38 n4 p4-13, 44 Win 2014-2015

In 1988, education reformer and American Federation of Teachers president Albert Shanker proposed a new kind of public school--"charter schools"--which would allow teachers to experiment with innovative approaches to educating students. Publicly funded but independently managed, these schools would be given a charter to try their fresh approaches for a set period of time and be renewed only if they succeeded. In the past two decades, charter schools have grown by leaps and bounds. But somewhere along the way, charter schools went in a very different direction from the one Shanker originally envisioned. Many charter school founders empowered management, not teachers, and adopted antiunion sentiments. Today, just 12 percent of charter schools are unionized, and teacher retention rates--one possible measure of professional satisfaction--are much lower than in traditional public schools. This article discusses Shanker's original idea for charter schools and what can be done to put charter schools back on track to meet that vision.

Descriptors: Charter Schools, Educational Finance, Financial Support, Educational Administration, Teacher Persistence, Unions, Educational History, Teacher Empowerment

American Federation of Teachers. 555 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001. Tel: 202-879-4400; e-mail: amered[at]; Web site:

Autor: Kahlenberg, Richard D.; Potter, Halley


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