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SKEPTICS and proponents of charter schools have a new ally. The Charter Schools Association sees the potential of innovative nontraditional public schools, but is smartly branding itself as an incubator for quality efforts and a watchdog ensuring those efforts yield results.

Created by the League of Education Voters with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the association has the independence, the resources and the policy experience to hold both sides accountable.

Charter schools in Washington must be authorized by the statewide Charter School Commission or started by districts permitted through the state Board of Education.

All ought to embrace the nurturing and oversight role of the charter association. Adie Simmons, the former state education ombudsman, is one of the organization’s leaders. Three public-school principals are on board to help design charter schools.

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Many charter opponents have never been inside one. The association took education leaders to high-performing schools in Denver. It is reaching out to national charter operators, such as Green Dot and the Summit Public Schools network, to find what works and bring it to Washington.

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes recently updated its 2009 landmark study and found charters on average are getting better.

Test scores from 1.5 million charter-school students were compared with similar students in traditional public schools. About a quarter did better than students in regular schools — specifically, 25 percent did better in reading, 29 percent in math. Charters made gains among disadvantaged and special-education students.

One hissy fit on the charter landscape is the Washington Education Association’s lawsuit in King County Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of Initiative 1240.

The state just emerged from a legislative session that included a protracted battle for money. WEA constituents got a billion dollars extra to help them do their jobs. They will be better served by waiting a couple of years and building an argument based on the performance of charter schools.

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