Charters in the Big Apple

Charter students in New York City outperform similar students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 concludes a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

A student can expect to improve by about 12 percent of a “performance level” in math and about 3.5 percent of a “performance level” in reading for every year in a charter school in New York City. These gains are in addition to whatever improvements the student would have been expected to make in a traditional public school.

To provide an apple-to-apple comparison, the study compared students “lotteried in” to charter schools with those who applied but were “lotteried out.” Not enough students were turned away from charter high schools to do a comparison.

More than 90 percent of charter applicants qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch, making them poorer than the typical public school student in the city but comparable to students in the neighborhoods where schools are located. Nearly 64 percent of charter applicants are black, compared to 32 percent for district-run schools.

Charters’ special education enrollment appeared comparable to district-run schools, but differences in record keeping made it difficult to know if the numbers really match.

About Joanne


  1. I see you’re in the City Journal now. Fancy stuff, congrats.

  2. dave.s. says:

    This is mostly a post I put up at another blog (Half Changed World) but I’m fond of it now and think it has something to add here:

    There’s a real evergreen journalistic cliche story – some kid, usually African-American, has gotten into big trouble, or gotten shot by other drug dealers, or otherwise gone off the rails, and there is a sympathetic profile of his heartbroken and hardworking and virtuous parents, and the reporter puts in the phrase ‘the pull of the streets was too strong’.. I think I’ve seen twenty or thirty stories like this in my years of reading the Boston Globe and now the WaPo. So what the Hell does this mean?

    I think it’s worthwhile to think about the books Judith Rich Harris has written. A broad caricature of her stuff is that our children acquire their personality traits and attitudes in part from their heredity and in huge part from the kids around them, and that parents can have only minor effects at the margins. Ouch! All those stories read, all that quality time at the zoo, and it’s swamped by Rocco in the third grade? I remember how discouraging I found it when #2 came back from day care singing (James taught him this) ‘girls go to Jupiter to get more stupider’… Another story: I came home from kindergarten having learned the counting rhyme: eenie meenie miney moe, catch a nigger by the toe, if he hollers let him go eenie meenie miney moe. And my mother said, ‘it’s TIGER, dear’. And all the other mothers in Berkeley said, ‘it’s TIGER, dear’. And after a while, it was tiger at school, too (doesn’t make any damn sense. Tigers don’t have toes, they have claws. And they don’t holler to get let go, they eat you and go where they please. But all the moms said it was tiger, so tiger it was).

    Where am I going with this? Kids are going to pick up their attitudes in school. A lot. I believe as a parent – I have to believe, damnit! – that there is some value to taking the kids to the zoo and talking about what we think is honorable action, and reading stories. But will or nil, you are going to get kids who are a whole lot like the kids with whom they spend time. And if the culture in their schools is unwholesome, and not academic knowledge oriented, that’s what’s going to give you a lot of your children’s attitudes. If it’s more palatable, think, Hillary Clinton’s ‘village’. It’s partly that the control which parochial schools, the KIPP schools, charters, the successful voucher schools, etc. exert on the culture of their students then would be an enormous factor in their greater academic success with less money. Also, though, everyone in the charter school was there because his her parents wanted it. And the lotteried out kids were mixed back in with children of parents who had not made that choice. This is sort of an ‘I read a book’ post, and the book is Phenomenon of Man by de Chardin – the idea is that there are emergent properties of groups, group culture, which will occur when all the kids are from families willing to make at least the step of trying to get out of the failing schools to which they would otherwise be sent.

    All the moms together could make it, ‘tiger’. ‘Tiger’ is a GOOD thing, but it wasn’t something my mom could have sold me on all by herself.

  3. Tigers don’t have toes?

  4. Mike from Oregon says:

    While I don’t totally buy that the kids your kid is around has THAT huge effect, it’s obvious that they do have a strong effect. One of my kids never sucked her thumb until I allowed her over to a house where the boy (close to her age) sucked his – she came home and it took almost a year to break that habit (not the worst habit, but I wasn’t pleased that she picked it up). I sent both my daughters to private schools during grade school and high school – both of them tower over the level of the typical public school graduate. Part of that is due to the environment that the public schools foster; trust me, it’s not one of academics (in general). One daughter is in the Army, the other is preparing to go, they both scored very well on the ASVAB test. The recruiter said there are high school graduates who have scored a 4 on the test (perfect score is 99) – not just a couple people but he sees it on a regular basis (at a 4 or anything below a 12 the service won’t take you).

    Yeah, let’s keep teaching them about ‘feelings’ and bolstering that self-esteem. Great job public schools.