D.C. charters outperform district schools

Washington, D.C.’s charter schools are outperforming district-run schools, especially with low-income students, reports the Washington Post.

With freedom to experiment, the independent, nonprofit charters have emphasized strategies known to help poor children learn — longer school days, summer and Saturday classes, parent involvement and a cohesive, disciplined culture among staff members and students.

The district-run schools are losing students to charters; enrollment in traditional schools is down by 42 percent since 1996. More than a third of public students now attend 60 charter schools in the city.

Both systems attract primarily low-income, minority students. Children score well below the national average. But charter students are closing the gap. Test scores are significantly higher.

District school records show that charters also have better attendance and graduation rates than the regular public schools and that their teachers are more likely to fit the city’s definition of “highly qualified,” meaning that they have expertise in what they are teaching.

The more successful D.C. charters raise significant amounts of private donations, reports the Post. They also have the flexibility to use facilities funding to buy equipment such as computers and copiers.

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  1. As Kevin Drum points out, though, they’re not really the same students:
    Parents have to apply to charter schools, so that eliminates the parents who just don’t care about education
    Charters have the ability to expel students who are disruptive; even if that’s only a few, it makes a big difference in the learning environment for everyone else.

  2. if it makes a big difference, sounds like a valuable lesson to apply from the charter

  3. Charters have the ability to expel students who are disruptive;

    So can district schools. There’s just not much of an incentive to do so. After all, disruptive students don’t trouble the principals much and higher administrative personnel not at all.

    The decision-makers aren’t troubled by the presence of disruptive students and the students who might want to learn along with the teachers who might want to teach them, don’t matter.

  4. Looks like some otherwise disadvantaged children are getting an advantage because of charter schools. Good for them!

    IMHO, there’s nothing in the report that would lead one to believe that charter’s have found a unique way of educating children that is making the difference. More money, better teachers, and committed students seems like a simple recipe for better results.

  5. Andy Freeman says:

    > they’re not really the same students:

    Actually, they are the same students, even if if they’re not like the average public school student.

    The relevant question is whether the kids who get to go to charter schools do better in charter schools than they did in public schools.

    Maybe some students won’t do better in charter schools than they did in public schools. They should stay in public schools. However, what is the “education is important” argument that says that students who do better in charter schools than public schools should attend public schools?