Charter Schools Do Not Measure Up To Expectations
> 8/28/2006 9:26:41 AM

Those banking on charter schools as the solution to our educational shortcomings read recent reports of their underperformance with disappointment. A report released on Tuesday, essentially a government assessment of statistics first published in 2004, showed the scores of students in charter schools to be, at best, comparable to those of students in public schools. In many cases, these numbers fell well below standards in math and English. While charter school advocates labeled the results unreliable and imprecise, a New York Times op-ed response to a preceding article argued that the report disproved the supposed benefits of charter schools, particularly for poor students.

Charter schools are largely autonomous, public institutions funded by a combination of education grants, non-profit organizations, and private investments. Most national education regulations do not apply to these schools, and states dictate their funding particulars. Politicians and commentators who bemoan the state of our public schools often name charters as viable and potentially superior alternatives. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, underperforming public schools could be shut down after five years, opening the door for increased enrollment in new charter schools. Teachers unions and related advocacy groups, who largely believe that the nation should aim to improve rather than replace its public schools, cited the Department of Education's delayed response as further evidence of their dismay at the results. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings issued a public statement praising the opportunities offered by these schools on the day of the report's release.

The report's particulars, though not absolutely conclusive, are hardly encouraging:

The study found that in 2003, fourth graders in traditional public schools scored an average of 4.2 points better in reading than comparable students in charter schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, often called the nationís report card. Students in traditional schools scored an average of 4.7 points better in math than comparable students in charter schools.

Also notable is the fact that charter schools associated with local school districts fared better than those operating independently, leading creedence to the belief that schools cannot successfully operate outside the national framework. America's fledgling charter school experiment, though not officially deceased, suffered a serious setback last week, and many involved may need to grudgingly reconsider their positions.  

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