The Founders: Inside the revolution to invent (and re-invent) America’s best charter schools teases out the practices that explain how America’s top charter schools created breakthroughs that were once unimaginable: leveling the achievement gaps between the haves and have-nots. Not all public charter schools can claim that accomplishment, only about the top fifth. But those top fifth have a lot in common – shared heritages, shared lessons learned, shared philanthropy support and school leaders that move easily from one group of charters to another. This unprecedented sharing was no accident. It all goes back to the promise KIPP co-founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg made with their revered mentor Harriett Ball: If I teach you all my classroom strategies, promise me you will pass them on. They did, and today those practices are found in nearly all the top performing charters. The Founders details how those shared practices came about, how they spread, and how they got fine tuned over the years, leading to Version 3.0 charters, the next-generation schools pioneered by the top charters. The history starts in California, where traditional educator Don Shalvey teamed up with Reed Hastings (later, of Netflix fame) and Rock the Vote co-founder Steve Barr to win an unlikely victory: legislation that gave California not only a liberal charter school law but also the opportunity to place multiple charter schools under a single authority – the birth of Charter Management Organizations, the vehicles now used across the country to generate most of the high performing charter schools. That law allowed Shalvey to open the country’s first CMO, Aspire Public Charter Schools. The book goes into great detail on the creation of Uncommon Schools, which came about when Norman Atkins opened North Star Academy in Newark. That school has long served as a lodestone for aspiring charter entrepreneurs. Today, the practices pioneered at North Star can be seen in top charters around the country. Many of the same charter school entrepreneurs who created the very first top charters are now engaged in building next-generation schools, which are designed to create high school graduates equipped not just to win admittance into college, but to earn a college degree. Four of these schools are profiled, in Los Angeles, New Haven, Providence and Boston. It’s all laid out in The Founders, including how these charters can work with traditional school districts, to the advantage of all students. The book also describes the “pushback” forces that can keep these breakthroughs from spreading. The potential is there. Whether that potential gets realized has more to do with school politics than school practices. This is definitely not your usual 25th anniversary book about the birth of charter schools. This history starts in California, not Minnesota. This book doesn’t celebrate the spread of more than 6,000 charters; it recommends closing hundreds. But this book lays out a future that should appeal to millions of parents desperately seeking better school options.