Taking a shot at a cheap shot

Charter schools are serving the neediest students, writes Johnathan Williams, founder of a successful Los Angeles charter school and a member of the California board of education, in a letter to the Washington Post. The anti-charter op-ed by Amy Stuart Wells, a Columbia Teachers’ College professor, is a cheap shot, Williams writes.

Attempting to build the case that free-market principles do not belong in public education, Wells remarked that she has seen some excellent charter schools “with well-trained educators and solid curriculums,” but that “they tend to be in more middle-class communities, where private resources augment the low level of public funding that charter schools receive.”

But most notable charter success stories are located in our urban cores, and they are typically operated by educators and community activists with diverse political leanings. The standout schools, which are making remarkable progress in closing the achievement gap, include North Star Academy in Newark, MATCH School in Boston, Amistad Academy in New Haven, and schools such as KIPP DC/Key Academy and the Arts and Technology Academy in the District — among many others.

And these are not isolated exceptions. Charter schools are doing a lot better than critics acknowledge. Granted, charter school performance varies. But research by the Rand Corp., the Hoover Institute and the Brookings Institution shows that over time the performance of the charter sector is improving. In California, where charter schools were the subject of a damning 1998 report by Wells, Rand found last year that the performance of charters is now comparable to that of other public schools, achieved with considerably fewer resources.

Eduwonk links to a GAO report that says we need more data to evaluate charter schools.

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  1. I find it amusing that here in Salt Lake City, Utah, the only charter schools so far that have “failed” were shut down because they went bankrupt. We even have charters that are specifically designed to take the kids that have been expelled from public school for violent offenses. They’ve got some of the better scores on tests. Of course they’ve also got strong accountability standards, and the only person who can excuse a student for being absent/late is his/her truant officer – NOT a parent. Compare this to the public school that doesn’t allow its teachers to factor attendance into grading. That’s what the “Citizenship” grade is for, apparently. All they can do if someone is chronically absent is re-queue the automated phone call that “notifies” the parents that the student is absent.

    Apathy reigns supreme among the administration, I’m afraid – and parents don’t seem to care.


  1. Extra Credit Assignment: Great Reading..

    Once again, I’ve put on my electronic walking shoes and have taken a little stroll around the Education Mini-Sphere to see…