What Happens at Higher Rates: Charter School Closure or Teacher Termination?

Two of the most significant education reform efforts of the past decade have been charter school expansion and teacher evaluation.

Both reforms, to some extent, are based on a theory that accountability will drive performance.

Whatever you think of this theory, it’s worth trying to understand how accountability is actually playing out in real life.


The annual charter school closure rate is around 4%.

However, most charter schools are not formally evaluated every year (they are often on a multi-year contracts).

During times of formal evaluation, closure rates are closer to 7%.

See below for some data from NACSA (this is survey data so not totally precise but generally in line with historical rates).

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Matt Kraft and Allison Gilmour just did a study on teacher evaluations in numerous states.

They found that 2.7% of teachers in these states received a below proficient rating. And most states were under 1% for teachers in lowest evaluation category.

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Of course, this is evaluation, not termination.

When it comes to termination, it appears that about ~2% of all teachers are let go each year (for any reason, not just performance).

So, on an annual basis charter schools close (4%) as 2X the rate that teachers are terminated (2%) and 4X the rate that teachers are given the lowest evaluation ranking (~1%).

And at times of formal evaluation, charter school closures are even more prevalent.


On some level, this feels odd: whole schools close at 4X the rate that individual teachers are receiving poor performance ranking.

Structure explains most of it.

Charter schools are evaluated by outside entities that are separated by governance structures.

Teachers are evaluated by their bosses, who work with them every day.

As a manager, I get it. It’s very difficult to give extremely low ratings to employees, especially those you don’t plan on firing.

It’s still hard, but less difficult, to review the performance of an entire organization that exists at an arms length from you.

This is one reason among many that legislative mandated accountability is best implemented at the organizational level rather than at the employee level.

Quite simply: it is more congruent with human nature.




1 thought on “What Happens at Higher Rates: Charter School Closure or Teacher Termination?

  1. Maggie Runyan-Shefa

    Would be interesting to see the teacher proficiency rates isolated for charter schools. It looks very different here in New Orleans.


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