Promising Strategies for Partnership: Can Durham district and charter schools collaborate to improve opportunities for all children?

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This report examines collaborative actions that Durham Public Schools (DPS), charter schools and other stakeholders can take to promote equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities for all of Durham’s students.

The report proposes that Durham’s education leaders convene a taskforce of stakeholders to jointly consider how collaborative action between the school district and area charter schools could improve educational outcomes for all of Durham’s children. The proposed taskforce would include a wide range of perspectives including DPS, Durham charter schools, non-profit organizations, local political action committees and parents.

Led by a neutral facilitator, the taskforce would form subcommittees to study key topics that are of interest and concern among Durham’s education community. By the end of the 10-month taskforce, each subcommittee would have a set of recommendations for actions that could be taken at DPS, charter schools and across Durham to strengthen schools and serve all kids. Many proposed actions would likely involve collaborative effort from DPS and some (or all) Durham charter schools.

By collaborating, this group could aspire to move away from historic divisions and tensions between the school district and charter schools. Engaging in a taskforce also positions leaders to maximize operational efficiencies and enhance knowledge across schools by sharing expertise and engaging in mutual learning and problem solving. This effort could demonstrate to the community that DPS and charter schools are committed, above all else, to working together for the betterment of educational opportunities for all of Durham’s children.

The documents that make up the report can serve as tools for Durham’s education leaders.

This report is comprised of four related documents that can collectively serve as tools for leaders if they embark on collaborative work between the district and charters.

The documents in this report include:

  1. A one-page call to action that provides context on the current dynamic between DPS and charter schools and demonstrates the potential for change that could be brought from collaborative efforts.

  2. A three-page strategy document that provides a high-level overview of how a taskforce could help progress Durham’s education landscape.

  3. A taskforce action-plan that outlines steps for creating a taskforce, recommended elements of a taskforce and a discussion of the proposed taskforce subcommittees.

  4. Analysis of potential collaborative actions that could be used as a resource for a taskforce to consider the benefits, challenges and feasibility of various efforts.

To complement the key documents, this report also includes:

• Three case studies that illustrate how varying components of these recommendations have taken shape in other cities around the nation.

• A literature review that surveys the available research and best practices on interactions between school districts and charter schools and how they have worked collaboratively in other cities around the nation.

• A history of charter schools in NC from 1996 to the present that can serve as a primer on additional context and history on the issues related to these recommendations.

The report strives to serve the needs of Durham’s education leaders and stakeholders.

This report aims to take a neutral perspective on the dynamics of DPS and area charter schools and sourced a wide range of perspectives, locally and nationally, to inform the recommendations.

The Chair of the Durham Board of Education, Heidi Carter, and Board of Education member, Natalie Beyer, served as the clients for this project. However, the recommendations are aimed at challenges that face the entire Durham community and which require action from a wide range of actors. Therefore, these documents are framed to address and serve the broad community of Durham’s education leaders and stakeholders.





Thigpen, Magan (2014). Promising Strategies for Partnership: Can Durham district and charter schools collaborate to improve opportunities for all children?. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.