In this essay, Charles Payne and Tim Knowles argue that given President Obama's support of charter schools, it is time for educators and policymakers to closely consider both the possibilities and the limitations of these schools in the context of urban school reform. The authors discuss the unique flexibility of charter schools—namely in staffing,time, budgetary autonomy, governance, and protection from district policies—as a significant source of their potential effectiveness. However, they also note the major challenges these schools face, as evidenced by variability in achievement results, sustainability,and quality of instruction. The authors suggest that these strengths and challenges must be considered together, and that the administration must focus on the elements of effective schooling for all children. Drawing upon this kind of evidence,the authors conclude, will lead to a more grounded and less partisan debate about urban education.

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