Check out the new article in Education Next by my current and former students, Marc Holley, Anna Egalite, and Marty Lueken on how traditional public school systems respond to competition from charters. Using an innovative technique they gauge the types of responses exhibited by a dozen school districts. While traditional districts engage in some non-constructive reactions, like focusing on blocking or regulating charters to minimize the competitive threat, overall they find districts rising to the challenge in positive ways. In particular they are finding that districts often respond to charter competition by replicating charter practices, collaborating with charters, developing innovative schools and programs, and expanding school offerings.
Of course, this analysis does not demonstrate that these positive reactions are resulting in improved student outcomes. But responding positively is the first step that we hope will lead to better outcomes. It is certainly a big change from earlier analyses that found districts focused almost exclusively on fighting and blocking charters. It appears school districts have come to realize that charter competition is here to stay and it is best to try to rise to the challenge rather than squash the competition.