As a charter school supporter, I've watched with dismay as a once-renowned area charter school network, Cesar Chavez, has spiraled into disorder, scandal and disappointment for parents, students and teachers. It's too early to say exactly what went wrong. I hope some enterprising local journalist takes the time to tell the story in full. It appears there were problems in the network's upper ranks, which have now cast shadows over everyone below.
But the disappointment of parents and students, along with independent efforts to salvage some elements of the network, indicate that the schools still have strong support among customers, despite problems at the top.
The silver lining to every story of a charter school failure is that these schools are allowed to fail -- that they are held accountable for poor performance, unlike most conventional schools, that blithely carry on, in perpetuity, even when they aren't performing up to par. Such failures are rare. But they do occur. And that's okay. For every charter school that flounders and fails, three or four or five are flourishing. On balance, these school are still serving students well, as a mountain of new evidence shows, and despite what some blinkered critics say.
For charter schools, failure is an option. Maybe that's why so many succeed.