Charter schools present the most controversial and divisive issue I’ve encountered in 36 years of education reporting. Supporters passionately defend charters, and opponents fiercely attack them, leaving little room for rational consideration of their merits and shortcomings, and what role they might best play in a school district’s game plan. In this issue, we hope to bring some measure of clarity to the debate by illuminating the issues through the experiences of one charter network and school communities that have rallied to compete against charters.
The Noble Network of Charter Schools has grown into a district within a district, with its own sports league, teacher-training program and a growing army of alumni spreading the brand. But its expansion comes with increased public scrutiny and internal questioning about whether its core tenets work for all students.