Are Bad Schools Immortal? Fordham’s new report finds bad schools usually stay that way. Few improve or shut down. That’s true for low-performing charter schools as well as district-run schools, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.
In the study, David Stuit examined low-performing schools in ten states from 2003-04 to 2008-09. A sizable number of those schools were charters. One might figure that, if the charter model was working as intended, these charters would either improve or go out of business. Yet 72 percent of the charter schools remained bad – and remained open – five years later. (Another 19 percent were shuttered–better than the 11 percent in the district sector, but still not great.) Just nine percent improved enough to climb out of the bottom quartile of performance (as measured by proficiency rates) in their respective states.
So why are so many low-performing charter schools continuing to stumble? They have strong incentives to improve – conceivably they could be shut down, plus they need to attract students – and most are free from the myriad constraints that low-performing district schools face. They don’t have teachers unions. They can remove and replace staff relatively easily. They have total control over their curriculum and school day. Except for their funding, their destiny is in their own hands. And yet achievement remains stubbornly low.
Consider the alternatives for parents in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods. Test scores are low at the nearby district-run school and at the nearby charter school, but the charter is safe and orderly.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is putting $3.5 billion into grants to turn around failing district-run schools, notes Petrilli.