For charter schools to be a viable, valid and reputable choice for education, the charter school movement must refuse to support schools that won't meet high standards, reject inferior plans for new schools and close the poorly performing ones.
That was the message Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave the National Alliance for Public Charters during its meeting in Washington last week, and it is worth taking to heart.
Mr. Duncan described the charter movement as "one of the most profound changes in American education." Parents and students have been happy with the addition of another school-choice option, but the rub comes when poorly performing charters are allowed to draw taxpayer dollars from traditional public schools with less than full accountability.
It might appear that Mr. Duncan's remarks conflict with President Barack Obama's goal to increase the number of charters, but he has merely challenged authorities and states to hold those schools to a high standard.
Interestingly, a Stanford University report says that while one in five charters provide an excellent education, student performance in half the schools mimics that in traditional public schools and students in more than a third of the charters do worse than their traditional peers.
As Secretary Duncan said, that's a wake-up call worth heeding.