Pioneer Institute Highlights Massachusetts Charter School Success


According to a report from the Pioneer Institute, new methods used by charter schools in Massachusetts are seeing results that allow their students to achieve higher levels of success.

Great Teachers are Not Born, They are Made: Case Study Evidence from Massachusetts Charters, looked into five successful charter schools in the state that have built a faculty of highly trained and effective teachers.

Education researcher and writer Cara Stillings Candal discovered that the schools that are the most effective take advantage of their capability to not need to follow state laws pertaining to public schools.  Charters can obtain high quality teachers without needing to worry about teacher tenure.  In addition, these schools look more closely at an employee’s educational background, how they fit in with the school’s mission, as well as how a candidate will help the school to succeed, rather than if they hold a license.

“They didn’t say things like ‘We don’t want certified teachers,’ or ‘We don’t want teachers coming from a traditional background,’” said Candal. “Instead, what they said was, ‘I don’t care where people are coming from. I want to hire really smart folks and make sure they’re bought in to the way we think about things.’”

The study also found that successful charter schools in the state tailor their professional development to include evaluations that have specific feedback, in addition to having clear ideas concerning how to retain high quality teachers.

While the study contends that reforms to the public school system in the state including licensure testing that focuses on both general and content-specific knowledge, requirements for continued teacher development, and teacher evaluations have all contributed to the increase in student achievement in the past 20 years, Candal said that policy leaders, school leaders and teachers across the state realize that qualifications do not necessarily make teachers more effective.  She said that successful charter schools have increased student success rates through the creation of a teaching workforce that focuses more on strong academic records and subject matter expertise rather than focusing on experience with traditional approaches to education.

These schools also offer training to their teachers during their first year on the job. Teachers in their first year at charter schools in the state are closely watched to see how they interact with students and how they help the school overall.

The paper suggests that although the public school system in Massachusetts is one of the best in the nation, they could benefit from the tailored approach used at successful charter schools.  Candal writes, “It may be time for Massachusetts to put less energy into designing bureaucratic hoops for prospective and experienced teachers to jump through and more energy into supporting educator preparation programs and schools to train and support teachers in different ways.”