Are Charter Schools Disruptive Innovations?

I don’t think so. They don’t necessarily provide consumers with a similar experience for dramatically quicker delivery or lower cost.

I think a real disruptive innovation would look more like the learning community of Udaipur, India, that Shilpa Jain talked about at a conference I attended last June. Links are in my June 16, 2010 post.

UNICEF had two different projects that kept bumping into each other. One was trying to provide schooling for all children in developing nations and one was finding that it was just too expensive. Our current system of public schooling is very expensive; we are quite privileged to support it and yet contrary to the metaphorical meaning of “support” many folks make a hobby (or a career) of criticizing its effectiveness and value. True disruptive innovation would make our education system both cheaper and more effective.

But I do not mistake charter schools for the answer; they are mainly a way for alert groups to siphon public money into private, less accountable hands. Still I think public school districts would do well to deal with them to some extent in a proactive (not defensive) way as if they were.

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