Schooling outside the box

Schooling outside the box

121 charter, innovation schools mostly in urban areas

 


 

MASSACHUSETTS CLAIMS A RICH HISTORY as the birthplace of public education in the United States. These days it’s giving rise to new forms of public schooling in response to growing frustration with the performance of traditional district schools, especially those in communities serving lots of students from low-income families.

The state’s landmark 1993 education reform law authorized the introduction of charter schools, which generally operate independently of local school districts and enjoy wide latitude over curriculum, staffing, hours, and budgeting. The first charter school in Massachusetts opened in 1995, and there are now 77 statewide. (Ten of the 77 operate within school districts.)

In 2010, the state authorized a new model known as “innovation schools,” which operate within districts but with many of the same autonomies given to charters.  There are now 44 innovation schools in operation, some the result of the conversion of existing district schools to “innovation” status, and some that were newly opened by districts.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

The map shows the location of the 121 charter and innovation schools across the state. The schools are heavily concentrated in urban areas, where dissatisfaction with district schools tends to run higher and where attention is being focused on new school models to address the achievement gap that has black and Latino students lagging behind their white peers.

With 29 of these schools, Boston accounts for nearly a quarter of all the state’s charter and innovation schools. Worcester is next, with three charters and eight innovation schools.  Of the 11 midsize urban centers identified by MassINC as Gateway Cities, only Brockton and Pittsfield have neither a charter nor innovation school.