Charter schools: Wave of the future?
Students study American History at Coney Island Prep, a charter school in Brooklyn, New York.
December 15th, 2011
07:35 AM ET

Charter schools: Wave of the future?

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN Radio

(CNN) More students are attending class at charter schools across the U.S. than ever before, and the number is expected to continue growing in the coming years.

Listen to CNN Radio's podcast on charter schools from Steve Kastenbaum.


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently released a report saying that more than 2 million children are enrolled in public charter schools this year. The nonprofit resource for charter schools said that more than 500 charter schools opened their doors across the country in the 2011-12 school year.

In speech after speech, President Obama has said the charter schools play an important role in his education policy. His administration hopes to double the number of charters that were existence when he took office.

“We’ll encourage states to take a better approach when it comes to charter schools and other innovative public schools,” Obama said in a recent speech on education reform.

Coney Island Prep opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 2009. But it took founder Jacob Mnookin two years to get to that point. He first had to get through the application process.

“When I submitted it, it was about 1,800 pages,” the graduate of Princeton University’s public policy school said.

Mnookin said a tremendous amount of information is required for the application. “Everything from daily schedules and annual calendars to five-year budget projections and personnel policies, curriculum, assessments, etc. So it’s a very detailed and lengthy document.”

He also had to put together a board of trustees that would oversee the school, find a location for the school and hire a staff. Most charter schools go through a similar process, but the details can differ greatly from state to state and city to city.

While Coney Island Prep is housed in a traditional school building, the similarities between the middle school and other public schools end at the door.

“We have a commitment to excellence that families sign, scholars sign and staff sign. And it just lays forth kind of the basic expectations that we have,” said Mnookin.

Students at Coney Island Prep wear uniforms and follow a strict code of conduct. Their school day and school year are both much longer than those of a traditional public school. Teachers are also required to devote more time to students than their counterparts at traditional public schools.

Some critics claim that charter schools attract better students and more involved parents, giving the institutions a better chance of succeeding. Mnookin says that’s not the case.

“Last year, we had over 350 applications for the 90 seats available. It’s a random lottery. We know nothing about the students when they apply.”

Students enter most charter schools across the country through a lottery system. Charters often wind up with a higher percentage of students with special needs, and they have to accept everyone.

Charter schools have much more leeway to try out new things than staff members at traditional public schools do. With that freedom often comes more accountability, not only to city and state officials but to the school’s board of directors.

In a short period of time, students’ reading and math scores have risen at Coney Island Prep. The New York City Department of Education placed Coney Island Prep's performance in the top 1% of middle schools in the city. After being in existence for just two years, it was rated the third best charter school in New York based on reading and math test scores. In every area, the city’s Education Department said, students at Coney Island Prep outperformed a majority of their peers at both charter and traditional public schools.

It is success stories like Coney Island Prep’s that the Obama administration hopes to mimic with the creation of more charter schools across the country.

“What the charters are is the mechanism for trying things outside of the larger system free of some of the red tape that is in these systems for good reasons,” said Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. “When we’re most successful, we learn from those examples, and then we’re able to learn how they can be adapted and taken up to scale inside our large school systems.”

There have been some very successful charter schools across the country. But Shelton says they haven’t done a good job of replicating those successes in traditional public schools.

“That’s one of the things that we’re trying to focus on in this administration … not only creating these innovative places that are breakthrough examples of performance, but also how do you create the kind of relationships and partnerships that allow for these effective practices to transfer into the core of the traditional education system?”

Charter schools aren’t responsible to municipal education boards. Generally, they operate independently. But in New Orleans, they’ve essentially become the local school system. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina almost all of the city’s schools were placed in a recovery district. Today, almost 90% of them are charter schools.

“It’s chaos. It’s utter chaos,” said Karran Harper Royal, a parent of several public school students in New Orleans and a founding member of the advocacy group Parents Across America. “Operating here in New Orleans, there about 51 different nonprofit entities that are charter organizations.”

Harper Royal said that as a result, there is no such thing as just going to your neighborhood school anymore.

“You would have to go and apply to every school you think you might want your child to attend, because when they decided that they would have this many charter schools, they stripped away your right to a neighborhood school. So it’s not a choice.”

Many education experts believe the extreme direction that charter schools have been taken in New Orleans should not be mimicked in other locations. Paul Peterson, director of Harvard University’s program on education policy and governance, says students seem to benefit most when cities have a mix of charter and traditional public schools.

“When some new school sets up that’s a competitor with the local public school, that public school tries to meet the competition. So the more competition there is, the better they become,” Peterson said.

Some opponents of charter schools contend that they take resources away from regular schools. Peterson says that’s not the case. “Generally speaking, charter schools operate with less money per pupil. They only have about 80% of what the traditional public school has.”

Charter schools tend to attract younger teachers with little to no experience in a classroom. Peterson says that has actually worked to the schools’ benefit. “They are very upset about the traditional public school. They feel it is bureaucratized and regulated and over-controlled, and they feel very hamstrung.”

Many of Peterson’s students go on to work in charter schools. “They really are the drivers of the charter school supply side: young entrepreneurs coming out there with their ideas, and they get very excited about the possibility.”

Coney Island Prep founder Mnookin was one of those entrepreneurs. He firmly believes that successes at charter schools can be replicated on a large scale. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for administrators and staff to try some new things, and hopefully, if something works, we can roll that out to the greater public school system at large.”

Raw data across the country show that a large percentage of charter schools are among the success stories. But a significant number of charters are also among low-performing schools.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University studied charter school performance in 16 states. Researchers concluded that 17% of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools. But 37% of charter schools performed at rates below their public school counterparts. The remaining 46% showed no significant difference.

The Rand Corp., a nonprofit research foundation, looked at charter schools in eight states and found that, on average, charter schools as a whole aren't producing results that differ substantially from traditional public school systems. However, the study showed that students at charter high schools are between 7% and 15% more likely to graduate than their traditional public school counterparts.

Everyone interviewed for this story said education officials have to do a better job of closing down charter schools that aren’t making the grade and implement on a wider scale the practices that are producing positive results.

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Filed under: Charter schools • Policy • Practice
soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. nisha

    i think it depends on what school you're talking about. i attended a charter school, and with the no child left behind act, it didnt challenge the students to their full potential. like i said i don't know how the schools they are talking about work, but for the one i went to, its best for 1st-4th grade.

    December 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  2. Beatrice

    There are three things that make charter schools successful: freedom from education regulations, parent involvement and self-selected student populations. There are very, very few charter schools that do not rely on a self-selected student population. It is, in virtually every case in this country, the "who" not the "what". It is a failed experiment because it is not scalable. Unless of course, the message is cynical at heart: successful education in the US means schooling the educable.

    That is not the common good or democratic intent of public education in this country, but it is what education reformers are selling.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • DeeNYC

      Public schools have failed miserably. Teachers, once underpaid and unappreciated became a strong union and like all unions have become a cancer. Do away with board of Ed and teachers union. The charter schools are excelling way past public schools and all your excuses and denials won't change that.

      December 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
      • Kim

        Dude, did you even READ the article? Only 17% outperform public schools, 35% UNDERPERFORM public schools and the other 40% are average with public schools.

        December 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  3. AutismPancakes

    As the parent of an autistic child, I must say that our experiences with charter schools (which shall remain nameless) have been less satisfactory. Interactions with charter schools were nothing more than smoke, mirrors, and red tape. The difference being that it was "Business" red tape instead of "Government" red tape. Much less definition and there is a lot more wiggle room. If you are interested, in Rebecca Maher's "Pancakes and a Lobster Tank; Living with Autism, Loviing Alex" she does a great job of summarizing the common experiences encountered by families with Autism dealing with education and support systems in general. For more information, you can visit http://www.AutismPlay.Com.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Charter school parents

      Charter Schools do not have enough money to hire one on one teacher aide for special kids. My daughter have an autistic frriend in her school and the students in her school (charter) are extremely protective of that kid and yes his parents are very involve. Not all charter schools are good. You have to do your homework.

      December 17, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  4. gypsyboomer

    An overwhelming majority of studies indicate that, other than parents, the teacher is the single largest influence to educational success. Yet this article would have you believe that young, inexperienced teachers, expected to do more work for less pay than their public school counterparts will lead to exceptional school successes, ie. higher test scores. Charter schools succeed or fail at about the same rate as traditional schools. Lets see, by that logic I would prefer less experience and longer hours for airline pilots, truck drivers, doctors or any other profession where experience seems to matter. How about paying teachers for their importance to society? Which by the way supports the old cliche "If you can read this thank a teacher".

    December 16, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  5. Alger Dave

    One thing often missed by those reporting on Charters is that they also save taxpayers a great deal of money. Here in Western Michigan (and I assume elsewhere too), local school float bonds to build buildings and do other long term projects. Charters get none of that money. Instead they build school buildings, pay teachers and teach kids all for what they get from the state in per pupil funding (and they still usually make a profit doing it). So, if you're sick of paying for bonds and special assessments on your property or other local taxes, you should be in favor of Charters. In my area of Western Michigan alone, that savings from Charters not needing this bond money could be as large as 50% (of the total cost of education in our area). That's a huge burden off the backs of local taxpayers. Oh, and of course you also get a better educated populace in the end! Win-win (teachers unions lose, but everyone else wins).

    December 16, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  6. Plymouth Massachusetts

    My daughter just switched from public school to charter school this year as a fifth grader. I believe our town has a very good public school system and do not have any real complaints with it. However, the charter scholl offers us (her parents)and her things I don't believe she was getting enough of in the public school system. Our charter does not require the students to wear uniforms, but does have a dress code that limits logos and such on their clothing. The students meet daily with an advisor, there is a stricter code of conduct that must be adhered to. They have a lot more focus on the comunity and the students place within it and their responsibilities to it. It is true that if a student is not upholding the standars they can be dismissed, but what's wrong with that? I'm looking at this purely from thye point of view of what I think is best for MY daughter. I want her in an environment where standards are expected to be upheld, not just acedemic, but personal conduct. Does this stack the deck for the charter school? I believe it does, I can't argue that. I believe my daughter is getting a better experience because if it. In the end, that is all that matters to me. Days are a little longer, homework is a little heavier, but at least in our case, the students and the teachers are much more involved with each other. I like the fact that she knows on a daily basis what is expected of her and, also, how she is doing meeting those expectations. She was a very good student in the public school system. She is a very good student in the charter system. What made the difference for us is our charter school emphasizes not ony their acedemic work, but also their civic resposibilities.. She is thriving in the environment the charter offers.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  7. Guest

    Home school and on-line school both are huge mistakes. Children need to know much more than the curriculum in a book or how to fill out a worksheet. They need to learn to be up, dressed, and at school on time; they need to learn to take direction from someone other than mommy; they need to learn to work in a group, to play by the rules, and let everyone in the group have a say; they need to learn how to be a leader and when it is time to let someone else take the lead and shine; and of course, they need to have the chance to find friends with common interests, and that all important girlfriend/boyfriend from a wide dating pool. How bleak to make a child stay home all day and not experience going out into the world and learning how to be a part of it.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • GuestII

      There is a decent-sized homeschooling community where I live (central Mass.) I've seen it go both ways. There have been a few unfortunate cases where the kids were poorly socialised. The majority though are well adjusted, normal kids. I think you are taking the "home" part of home schooling too literally. The majority do some work at home but take classes (in anything- language, arts, sports) outside of the home.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:12 am |
      • JeramieH

        I've always wondered about that. Home schooling would imply the parent assumes they themselves know as much as a teacher with a chemistry degree, a teacher with a language degree, a teacher with a math degree, a teacher with a history degree, a teacher with a government degree...

        December 16, 2011 at 11:58 am |
      • DeeNYC

        Home schooled children are strange and socially inept. Socializing is a MAJOR factor in the development of a child.

        December 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  8. Buck Rodgers

    Parenting needs reformed not education. Get your kids away from the video games and junk food and take them camping or hiking. Spend some time with them.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • umm

      It's quite possible to bond with your child over video games.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:00 am |
      • Michael

        True, but the problem is that most parents won't do it. They'd rather let the XBOX spend time with their children than take the time and be real parents.

        December 16, 2011 at 10:30 am |
      • Buck Rodgers

        Obviously, if your playing the game with them. Surely you understood what I was saying.

        December 16, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  9. publiceducated

    After reading this article, the main "innovation" of charter schools seems to be that they spend less per student and have cheaper, less experienced teachers. The statistics from the Stanford study appear to show that charter schools are more likely to underperform than outperform standard public schools. In other words, the charter school trend has more to do with driving down the wages of workers and the budgets for schools than helping students achieve a better education. IMO, it's a fairly pathetic trend for a country that has the largest economy in the world.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • DeeNYC

      that's an outright lie. Charter schools have consistently out performed public school kids. In new orleans since so many schools were wiped out in the hurricane, charter schools have popped up all around and the kids have far exceeded what they were achieving in public schools.

      December 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
      • Kim

        In New Orleans, perhaps, but the data is quite clear from mulitple sources. Overall, charter schools do NOT do any better than public schools.

        December 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  10. xpxpxp

    Massachusetts has one of the strongest teacher unions in the country, makes little use of charter schools, and is consistently at the top of educational rankings with its students scoring higher in tests across the board. Charter schools are just a new fad in education. They are not needed.

    December 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Anna Zervos

      Saying that 17% is a large percentage is a joke. Also if you read the report on Florida Charter you will find that 86% of the schools do not have any seriously disabled students. Charter Schools do not play on a level playing field with public schools.

      December 16, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Walter

      Well good for you xpxpxp. Massachusetts may (as you suggest) not need charter schools; but that most certainly doesn't mean the rest of the country doesn't. I'm glad to see that the thug teachers' unions are consistently losing the battle to prevent charter schools. The union believes they know best, but after decades of falling further and further behind other countries, citizens are finally ready to tell the union to sit down and shut up.

      December 16, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Thomas Williams

      This article is wrong. Charter schools exclude disabled and underperforming children all the time. They don't have to "accept everyone." Also, they do not have the same reporting requirements as public schools, so they can expel low-performing students in the name of "discipline" when they are realy just pushing out those that drag test scores down. That is why many schools make a big deal about their "strict' nature....so parents aren't surprised when their child who is sgtruggling with math gets expelled for "talking back" to a teacher. Charter schools are discriminatory, and it is absurd to compare real public schools with charter schools.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
      • WorkedatCharterSchool

        I worked at a charter school in MA. It was a great experience at an excellent school. The school did not, however, accept most students with special needs. Charter schools can do this by claiming that they do not have the necessary facilities or staff to provide such students with an "appropriate" (legal term) education. They do NOT have to accept everyone. There are other problems with this article, as well.

        December 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Scar

      Where in MA do you live? Obviously not Boston, Dorchester, Lawrence, Somerville, Hyde Park, Chelsea.... and the list goes on. The majority of MA does not live in Newton, Belmont and Lexington

      December 16, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • JoJo

      Charters are very much needed! They offer a choice to students, and in many cases alleviate over crowding at traditional public schools. Listen, some kids don;t do well in a giant building with 1700 kids. Some kids need a smaller setting. The teacher to student ration in charter schools typically is much lower that traditional schools. Charters offer extensive instruction in areas traditional schools may not- math and sciences for example- or the arts. Choices are a good thing. Open your mind.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  11. Stephanie

    Charter schools are a great alternative for students and parents but teachers often work longer hours and are paid much less. My husband was a charter school teacher and often worked nights, didn't get a raise in 6 years, and was paid 1/3 less than public school teachers. Charter schools prey on young, excited, creative teachers and burn them out. They should be regulated as public schools are.

    December 16, 2011 at 2:22 am |
    • hilo, HI

      'a great alternative' -so is a leaky lifeboat to a sinking ship.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • tony fail

      Suggesting that the government of a sort step in, or a union? Please! I appreciate your husbands work, but abhor having any out side influence. Next the teachers would be schooled on what and how they teach

      December 16, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  12. Angel

    The biggest scam in education today is the charter school

    December 16, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Gomez

      Spoken like a true public school employee.

      December 16, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • hilo, HI

      No, Spoken like someone aware of the not so public problems of charter schools -from cherry picking students then 'lotteries' (You mean many boast better results than public schools that have to take what they get? Ya don't say.) to dysfunctional click administrations worse than anything regulated public schools can get away with.

      New Orleans post-Katrina education crisis has been well covered -and it's not just problems with the RSD feeding frenzy, but also with some BESE pre-Katrina schools as well, including preferential class placement of better connected (donor) parent's children, to on-going criminal abuse of a disabled student. So, It's not just a post-disaster problem there.

      Here in Hawaii our 2 children are/were in 2 different charter schools -one WAS in grade school, the other is in hs.
      The grade school should be shuttered immediately -it is a $$$ scam of an education. We hoped for a better option than the local public school, but it wasn't. The CS? horribly greedy and incompetent click administration, completely under-quialified teachers. The problem w/ the ps? The bad parents of the majority of the student body. (welfare breeding addicts, no other way to put it. If half the children in that school do not have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, I'll eat this computer.) The faculty, staff and facility are top notch. Oh well, that's where she is.

      The charter hs? an example of how cs can and should be. The public hs? a dangerous waste of time, not an option.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:30 am |
    • DeeNYC

      You mean the teachers union is. Not surprised so many teachers are upset they may lose their tenure. What planet are we on that it's impossible to fire someone no matter how incompetent they are.

      December 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • Kim

        Not true. Tenured teachers can be fired and often are. The only difference tenure makes is it forces the administration to show cause for firing. Most schools where you see bad teachers carrying on year after year are because the administration doesn't want to do the paperwork to get him/her fired. Who is the lazy one in that scenario? There are a couple of bad teachers where I work. I'd love to see them fired. They do more harm than good, but I can't make my boss do the work to make it happen. Even teachers want to see the bad ones go, but we don't have the control. At my old school, tenured teachers did get fired.

        December 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  13. z beast

    The issue isn't education as it is parents trying to get their children away from "those" children. Public education is for better or worse available to all: ADD, ADHD, mentally challenged, socially challenged, etc. Charter schools do not have to abide by federal mandates regarding special education or educating those with social/emotional issues. Charters can pick. And if those they pick do not work out they can dismiss them. It's basically a way to avoid big issues as to what do we do with those who are disruptive in a variety of ways. Call it whatever you want but it is a form of discrimination and sooner or later the ACLU will figure that out and lawsuits will begin.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Caldude612

      You don't know what you're talking about.

      If the child misbehave they are dismissed or cause continued problems. They do seek special help for kids with learning diabilities or handicap.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • hilo, HI

      z beast, you are 100% right. Cherry picking will always show better results, and charters have ways of 'unwelcoming' students that harm their 'results', that public schools would be more easily sued over.

      Also, lack of oversight of administration is a huge problem. They answer more to themselves / boards aren't neutral.
      Remember, these are COMPANIES, and non-profit doesn't negate inflated, undeserved salaries, cronyism, nepotism, etc. Lots of 'non-profits' were later proven to be frauds.

      December 16, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Scar

      I have 2 kids on IEPs in a charter school; 1 an academic IEP and the other a behavioural. The school has a 1 special ed teacher to 10 special needs kids ratio. 98% of all kids, including those on IEPs go onto college. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:18 am |
      • WorkedatCharterSchool

        a 98% college acceptance rate means that your charter school is absolutely, positively, cherry picking from the surrounding districts.

        December 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • JoJo

      I don't know where you live but that is certainly not the case in NH. Charters are public schools, they cannot discriminate.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Matthew Wines

    While my 3 kids do go to a charter school I feel the biggest difference is our participation in their school. My wife is at the school daily talking to their teachers, part of the PTA and a room mom. Our kids at their young ages 8, 7 and 6 already know school is very important to us as a family. It is a way to a better life and in order to accomplish this their charter school here in San Diego is a great start. I can't think all the dedicated people at Nestor Language Academy enough, it is a fantastic place to learn.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • hilo, HI

      You sound like an example of good, involved parenting regardless of which school, public or public-run-as-private (charter).

      December 16, 2011 at 3:42 am |
  15. mockingbird2

    I'm the interim principal and a charter member of the staff of a charter school in a Southern state. Most interesting line in this article - "charter schools aren't responsible to local boards." Problem is, in my state they are accountable to local school boards, whiich are required to do nothing for them., The school administrations, in some cases, are actually allowed to take steps that potentially impede the charter schools' chances for success.

    Our charter school experienced tremendous difficulties in startup; we overcame them, and made Adequate Yearly Progress in our state, while outperforming or performing on par with other schools in our area of our district.

    The school board's response was to cancel our charter, primarily because they hate our educational management organization, whose only "crime" seems to have been sacrificing a lot of money from their other schools to our school while the school was struggling, and subsequently canceling all of that debt so that the school would have a clear ledger to operate.

    Meanwhile, the same administration and board renewed the charter of another school that did not make AYP and did not perform as well as we did. The primary reason seemed to be a payback for their willingness to separate from their educational management organization.

    Here, the charter/state/local district relationship borders n the ridiculously unfair, and the students, parents and teachers are payng the price for it.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  16. phil

    who makes all these rediculous rules? if a child isn't able or capable ,they shouldn't move on . if a child is disruptive in class they shouldn't be given 5 times before being sent out to the principle or suspended, if the kid is messing up GET EM OUT OF THERE! . i mean how are these kids going to get their act together if we keep allowing them to get behind and say its ok and make allowances for not doing better. and if we continue guess what its only going to get worse, next it will be 10 chances before going to the principle . geeeesh!! if parents dont get a backbone and go to the board and state and say we tried it your way and your failing . DISCIPLINE is important. but this article shows kids and parents need schools with it and not tolerant of the contrary.

    December 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  17. RonPaul2012

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/19/2541051/florida-charter-schools-big-money.html

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/13/2545377/academica-florida-richest-charter.html

    The above articles are examples of what corporate interests and little to no oversight do to education – this ladies and gentlemen are what charter schools are about.

    December 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • sharky

      Gee how well are those public schools going for ya. Unions doing a fantastic job with the education system aren't they.

      December 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
      • maestro406

        Non-union states, like Texas, rank the lowest on SAT scores and graduation rates while Wisconsin and other teacher union states rank higher.

        December 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
      • professionalstudent

        Teachers unions advocate for smaller class size, better schools, modern textbooks and equipment, relevant curricula, improved teacher training, and other things (besides maybe someday paying teachers more than landscapers) that improve American schools. Where teachers unions have influence, schools are better, and vice versa.

        December 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
      • Kim

        The highest ranking education system in the world- Finland- has a 100% unionized teacher force. Their union is not only complete but very, very strong. Unions are not the whole problem here. In my district, our union strongly supports the educational reforms that the district has imposed on us to improve- and it's working great. A good union protects its members but also realizes that its job is to educate kids. It is possible to do both.

        December 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Matthew Wines

      Nothing like throwing a blanket over a story. Not all charter schools are like the examples you have given. My 3 kids go to a charter school in San Diego, Nestor Language Academy and trust me we are not rich nor are any of the families going to this school. It is about specialized education with people who want their kids to focus on learning. The best choice my wife and I have ever made is sending our kids to Nestor.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  18. Taylor

    Being a freshman at a Charter school who went to public school prior to this year, I can give a full perspective. My school is great, though I have to get up earlier and work harder, you aren't abused for being smart. At my old schools, I was bullied and harassed and never fit in. I was laughed at for liking to read and listen to Taylor Swift. At Charter, the kids actually won't condemn you for liking Harry Potter; in one of the girl's bathroom stalls, someone had written FOR NARNIA on the wall in Sharpie, at one of my old schools it would have been something very different. I believe that need more schools need to follow Charter's example and that the No Child Left Behind policy should be removed. Children need to be pushed academically and not athletically. Who's with me?

    December 15, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • JoJo

      :) Keep shining!!

      December 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  19. Jeff in San Diego

    Teachers need to be able to flunk students who are not ready to move on to higher grades. No Child Left Behind made it too easy for kids to just be passed along to higher grades and forced teachers to coddle rather than challenge students. One of the reasons my generation did better in school is because we were afraid of being the dumb kid who had to stay back a grade. That and teachers were respected then. If my teacher said I was a pain or if I wasn't doing well, they told my parents and I was in trouble. All this ant-teacher rhetoric from the right has made parents blame teachers for their child's inadequacy.

    December 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Dave - Michigan

      I teach in a public high school (math and science). We have to accept every student that comes our way and we're under great pressure not to flunk even the worst students due to a complex state formula that cuts funding when a student doesn't graduate on time or drops out. The same formula also penalizes us for poor test scores. There is a quirk in the formula that allows schools that graduate less than 30 students per year to avoid both of those penalties. The three competing charter schools in our district all graduate less than 30 per year, so there is no accountability for them. Their lottery system does randomly let students in, but they are allowed to set a bar that if the students can't perform to a certain level, they are released and then become our problem. My fellow math teachers and I once compiled state test scores for a five year period and discovered that if we eliminated the bottom 5% of our students, our school's scores would improve by 20%, but we can't do that like the charter schools can.

      December 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
      • maestro406

        Thank you. Charter schools can and do release their poor performers while low performing public school students cannot be released. There are numerous cases of second and third year freshmen in public schools. Many of the bloggers here malign the public schools when they make unfair comparison with charter schools.

        December 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Hmmmmmm

      School grades do not work. Why? Because school grades can be easily inflated or deflated depending upon the politics of the school issuing out the grades. In fact different countries have different grids of what it means to receive an "A". Grades are static in nature and do not reflect those students who may be late bloomers (eg: Alexander Bell, Einstein, Steve Jobs, etc) Today's school grade system only reflects the popularity of the student. Secondly, school grades have no bearing on realty after you complete school. Only your fico score really matters. If a country is truly interested in raising the skills of its citizens and thereby its GDP to compete globally, then an inflated or deflated grade system should be abolished and replaced with a new more relevant model such as an "educational passport" system. Such a passport would measure competency in any areas of academia, would be "dynamic" in nature allowing the student to have input and own their mastery of their school work and work at their individual speed. It allows smart kids to accelerate at a high speed without being frustrated and it allows others to revisit challenged material without the constraints and fear of being humiliated by a "failed grade" and, thereby, stigmatized. The educational passport model, on the other hand, would provide a tracking system of the child's progress allowing all children to practice until they truly master their school material. Mastery would be recorded using perhaps histograms and qualitative analysis using proven data that drive results – even if that means we use data from schools outside our country. Top teachers from all over the country could upload their lectures onto the internet and collect royalty for their good work. The passport model would allow the the student to be focused mastering the concept, similar to practicing the piano" where their ever improving skill set is 'dynamically" monitored and perhaps recorded in an histogram and to give a refreshed value as they master and transcend through their school work. The "educational passport"could be an electronic app to support the teacher and reduce admin responsibilities. My ideas can go on but you get the idea.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:53 am |
    • professionalstudent

      I'd love to hear more about how you think your generation performed better in school than these kids today. The bar is set MUCH higher today. They are learning more material (e.g. algebra in 3rd grade), and achieving higher test scores than previous students. They have to pass tests in order to move up in grade. Their teachers are much more likely than yours were to have a postgraduate degree, and benefit from more professional development opportunities. There are also many factors that dilettantes know nothing about; e.g., literally millions of children (those with severe disabilities/special needs) in your day were termed "uneducable" and left out of mainstream public schools, whereas today these students are included in classrooms and their test scores are factored in. Wait until 2014, when NCLB requires that EVERY public school student in the country is required to earn a score of "proficient" in EVERY major subject, and you'll really see what I mean about raising the bar.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
      • Hmmmmmm

        Wow....I think I pressed your angry button. First, my motivation for writing this blog was about infusing new ideas for kids, for kid's sake and for society as a whole. My motivation was not to write about me nor was it designed to anger you. Furthermore, I am not so sure why my own educational experience is relevant? The only thing I will say about my own education is that dovetails nicely with the contemporary norms of the time. REMEMBER or perhaps you are not aware, it was only a 125 years ago or so, children worked in mines, plantations or perform menial tasks just to survive. The concept of having a "childhood" was only conceived in the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, there was no middle class and many kids suffered from malnutrition or from being overworked with with some never reaching adulthood. With that said, each successive generation since is better treated and respected than its previous and now today, as you have so enthusiastically offered me with your rebuttal we have the wealth for some teachers to remain in university longer and further their credentials.

        To return back to my original idea, what I am saying about the grading system, is that it is draconian, outdated, can cause psychological damage and probably designed 125 years ago by the same mindset who thought it was acceptable to have child labour or demand for corporal punishment.

        Instead, if we shifted away from the current "static"grade system with a "dynamic" monitoring or tracking system of the student's progress, it would achieve the following: 1) protect the child's self esteem 2) empower the child to have control of his/her destiny 3) experience success 4) develop solid core skills to be university ready 5) promote confidence to take risks as required for entrepreneurial endeavors so desperately needed for economic growth. The list goes on – Does the idea of abolishing the grade system make sense to you now?

        If we had an electronic

        December 16, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  20. sean green

    ALL schools can be charter schools if we get rid of the things that bind non-charter schools.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jake

      We need to get rid of teacher tenure. The teacher's union is a political monster that only has their interests in mind not our children's.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
      • Kim

        Explain how Finland ranks number 1 in the world with a 100% unionized teaching force? Oh, wait, they also have less than 1% of their kids living in poverty. They have heavy parent participation. They don't include draconian testing mandates that take nearly 20% of the school year's time. Unions have very little to do with the problem in the U.S.

        December 19, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  21. Doc

    It starts with the parents. Some parents are good parents who look out for their kids welfare. Some parents gave up responsibility for the child the second it was born, and are always looking for someone else to bear that burden. Seriously whatever happened to PERSONAL RESPONSIBLITY? The concept of I have to do the work, not expect someone else to do it for me? Want your kids to get a good education? GET INVOLVED! BE AVAILABLE!

    December 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Jake

      This is true. But many parents want their children to succeed but are simply trapped within the public education system, which is a sink hole. And many schools aren't that bad and their parents think they're kid is getting a good or decent education, which it may be good compared to the rest of the US. But even our best students aren't in the same league as the Asians.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
      • Jake

        their kid*

        December 15, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  22. d_mar

    Why can't the same principals and rules that apply to Charter schools be applied to Public Schools?

    December 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • sharky

      Teachers Unions that is why

      December 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  23. Lou

    I am an advocate of charter schools because they require involved parents. My experience with the California and Texas school systems brought me to this decision. It seems like public schools are only interested in success on the football field or basketball court. That includes many universities as well.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  24. The_Mick

    "We have a commitment to excellence that families sign, scholars sign and staff sign." +++++ If the public schools were allowed by the courts to demand ANY kind of real commitment from parents, you wouldn't need charter schools.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  25. Dawn

    I wouldn't mind teaching at a charter school....if they pay me better than the public school system does.

    December 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Rational

      I work at a Charter School and love it! Our school has merit pay, which requires us to show growth with each student. This growth is not a set bar, but is disussed with our administrators at the start of school. If I show growth, I can earn an additional amount of money and a bonus. Although my pay with this bonus is not $70,000 like it is for a 5th year teacher in my district of residence, it does bring my take home up to the normal base for my area. Plus, I can try innovative techniques to help my kids, because I lack the restrictions of my public school counterparts.

      December 15, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  26. jjohnson

    Just to be part of a charter school lottery you have to apply, which already indicates a higher level of awareness and involvement. As the article indicated, you also have to be willing to meet the school's requirements, which often includes a parental contract, something traditional public schools can't require. That screens out more students. Research also shows that the rate of students leaving charters is much higher than traditional public schools. Why? Because the students themselves decide it's too tough or they're 'counseled out' by the school because they aren't doing well enough. Guess where they end up...that's right, traditional public schools. Apples to oranges, lottery or no lottery.

    December 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Rational

      Actually, charter schools vary from charter to charter. Some students do not fit into one mold, so they will try another. If it does not work out, they may choose another in the hopes that it fits better. This could be back to their previous school, the private sector or another charter. Kids do not fit into one mold and deserve the right to find a school that fits their needs.

      December 15, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  27. Pro Charter

    It seems as if there is a love-hate relationship for charters. As someone involved in a Southern CA charter all I can say is that these schools are the only ones where recent education graduates can actually find work in this area. For the past two years, city schools have had a hiring freeze and have pink slipped hundreds of recent hires. As someone who moved to the area, my only option was teaching at a charter where I was afforded the ability to actually come in and interview with the principal face-to-face. I work with a young staff and we all feed off each other. We have open enrollment and are reflective our our district in that 2/3 of our students are on free and reduced lunch. I have freedom and flexibility to work on my curriculum, design my own classes, and try out new instructional methods in the classroom. After having taught public school for two years and now onto my third year in the charter system I can honestly say I don't foresee myself leaving the charter any time soon.

    December 15, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  28. RP55

    My kids went to public schools and are long graduated, so I don't think I have any personal biases here. The alleged factual parts of the article seem to make sense. Some quotes about what should be done trouble me. Charter schools are a mixed bag of generally dedicated amateurs and experienced people trying to do what the education experts have done for years. And they do about as well with 80% the resources. Think about the implications of this, and ask why we should listen to "education experts" or expect "education officials" to implement solutions. If experts and officials can't do significantly better than non-experts, then maybe they are something like "education establishment experts" or "officials." That is, they are experts in the ways schools and districts work, rather than actually in educating students–I mean , they are no better than the non-experts when it comes to student performance. I seriously question the expertise, not of most teachers, but of the people who have guided the policy and pedagogy for years.

    Of course, as a society, we have become more involved in our children's lives, but less willing to instill discipline (in this case meaning making kids do their work and not being making excuses for them when they mess up). This has to make the task of both kinds of schools harder.

    December 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • JLS639

      Actually, charters are not performing at public school standards. A plurality are no different from their public school counterparts, but more charter school under perform compared to public schools than over perform.

      December 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Jeff in San Diego

      One advantage of the charter school system is that they can use resources directly. Charter schools do not have to pay huge salaries to district office employees. They are run by a school administration that isn't bogged down by a bloated district office. For school districts facing cuts, they always cut teachers and never administrators at the district office, although cuts to district administrators would have less effect on students. i think districts should all contend and compete with charter schools, if only to show how giving more power and resources to teachers and principals and less to administrators is the solution to our education system. Also, parents choosing to take their kids to charter schools allows teachers the opportunity to say, "you chose this school and if I call you to say your child is a problem, you better listen" instead of today's situation that allows parents to threaten teachers through district action when the teacher punishes a kid for being out of line or flunks a kid for not working hard.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  29. thenewsjunkie

    I think the biggest challenge when it comes to charter schools is maintaining continuity and success over the long term. Successful charters are often started by dynamic individuals on a mission to do better. They rely on a young, dedicated staff. Often, members of that staff burn out quickly because they agree to additional commitments and demands on their time. Often these are young, single people with little experience behind the teacher's desk. That doesn't mean they can't e good teachers. But they are at risk for burning out quickly. A school's founder may not stay with that school for a lifetime and their vision would have to be carried on by a replacement. The true test for successful charters will be whether they can maintain their successes over the long term. As for questionable accounting practices at some charter schools across the US, oversite varies from state to state and city to city. Remember, these are individual run, indpendent public schools and they are still subject to rules and regulations that the state puts on them.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • CIP parent

      Very interesting and valid points.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Lilly Britt

      Need to sharpen up. All of your comment equally applies to public schools, the difference being the 'duff ' teachers, and they are numerous, can't be removed because of the Unions. I am from Europe and what I see of the US public school system is abysmal. It seems to cater to the lowest in order that everyone should 'feel good about themselves'. In Europe school is for learning, the last two years in high school are concentrated preparation for college – not 'play time' w/ Prom queen, Homecoming, Valentines and other such time wasters. Those who are not chosen sure feel good about themselves – you think? When and why did all this nonsense start? US students spend the first year in college learning what should have been covered in high school – then spend another three, obligatory, years to aquire quite often a pointless degree that with effort, and a better organized curriculum, could have been accomplished in two.

      December 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Charter school parents

      Also Charter Schools do not have the ability of raising property tax like public schools to purchase new computers or improve the gyms, buildi new swimming pools, etc. etc.

      December 15, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  30. Colleen

    Actually, home education is the wave of the future for conscientious caring parents. I have a 16 year old and an 18 year old who have each already completed over 2 1/2 years of college. They are not geniuses and they do a normal amount of work.

    Conventional government schools are a failed social experiment. Every day more and more parents flee the system to give their kids something much better.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Did you teach your kids about evolution?

      December 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • DD

      Most parents are ill-equipped to provide a college-level education at home, especially for majors like science, engineering, and premed programs. Unlike GED for high school, there is no way of getting the equivalent of a college degree from home schooling, which will affect one's chance at employment.

      December 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
      • jsir

        Actually there are fantastic opportunities for home education with online schools. They are progressive, have an excellent curriculum and daily teacher support, I believe they are the wave of the future and only wish our economy allowed more parents to stay home and educate their children this way.

        December 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
      • Jurota Makimanda

        Some private schools are part-homeschooling programs which let parents do some teaching, and a school do the rest

        December 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • JLS639

      Home schooling will never replace public education. It will continue to be an outlet for the minority of parents who want it. A lot of parents want their kids to grow up in a social environment of their peers, or do not feel they have enough time to devote to home schooling.

      Jimbo: Only a small fraction of home school parents do so for religious reasons, if that is what you are implying (don't remember the exact figure, but it is under 10%).

      December 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  31. vel

    Charter schools are only a way to cheat rural poor kids out of a decent education and funnel money to religous organizations. I grew up in a very rural area in Appalachia, where the only alternative to public schools were one Catholic school that was 30 minutes away. My folks barely had time to get me to the library once a month, much less drive me somewhere everyday. We still don't see anyone lining up to have good charter schools in rural areas. Nothing like making sure that there will always be haves and have nots.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Think

      You lived in a poor remote area with lack of fundings and infrastructures, the one far out charter school that you can choose to not attend is the least of your problem. I seriously doubt that not having that charter school would have improved your community in any signficant way.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • David

      @vel. First, the Catholic school you referred to could not have been a charter, which are public schools not allowed to be run by a religious group. Second, charters don't charge tuition because they are public schools. The private Catholic school would have charged tuition. Third, the student population of most charters is on average poorer and on subsidized/free lunch. Definitely apples and oranges.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
      • David

        And incidentally, bad charters should be shut down if they're not run well or performing poorly. Try doing that with a traditional public school. Any of you have poorly performing regular public schools in your area?

        December 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  32. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Something else to be considered is charter schools act like a miniature district with minimal public oversight. In our district, some charters have been shuttered because of financial irregularities and recently one had its charter revoked because its director acted like a dictator–violating students' right to free speech and bullying parents and staff when they disagreed with him.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • CIP parent

      You are either a teacher, a member of the UFT, or a occupy the world nut. Either way you do not speak for children. You priority is politics

      December 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • victim of democrat hypocrisy

        And you only care about YOUR children, which is fine, but what happens to the rest of the children not lucky enough to go to one of the few successful charters?

        December 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
      • CIP parent

        Actually I am an advocate for excellent education options for all children. I belive if you go to a school were you have a 50/50 chance at graduating and going to college, that school should be closed down. I come from an age where you attended your zone school and accepted the standard of education that that school provided. But now I believe we should have options, parents should be able to go to multiple different schools, compare curriculums, meet teachers and decide which is best for their child. Anything less and then we don't have to worry about failing schools because we will be failing parents.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
      • victim of democrat hypocrisy

        That's great. I think we all want that. What I'm pointing out, though, is there's a schism developing in public education between those privileged enough to attend a successful charter school and those left behind. Certainly the parents of the privileged few are happy as clams, but who speaks for the rest?

        December 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • CIP parent

        I'm sorry you're still not gettin it. This article is about Coney Island Prep, and the students that attend the school are far from priveledged. It seems that your argument is flawed. If all kids can't attend the excellent school then they all should fail. I should have to pay thousands a year if I want a right of to an excellent education or hope that the public school in my neighborhood is good enough. If your argument is that charter schools should not exist, I think that is a parents choice, not yours.

        December 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
      • Danny

        I am a teacher... and I work in a public poverty school in Indiana. Last year, our school outperformed most every other elementary school in the country. We were one of one hundred schools that have "closed the achievement gap" in education. Most of our staff is part of the teacher's union. I take so much offense to these comments from people saying that public school teachers or teachers' unions members don't care about the kids. That's pure nonsense. I, personally, only think about the welfare of the kids at my school and that's why I spend most of my money on school supplies for my classroom. That's why most of my free time is spent grading papers and planning for my lessons throughout the week. Do I complain? No. Shame on everyone who believes that teacher's don't care.

        December 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • Tony

        Your responsibility as a parent is to guarantee that your child gets the best education available. Most public schools are burdened with poor quality students, the product of poor quality parents. Are there bad teachers? Of course, but I would not, for a second, say that they are in the majority, or the reason for low grades, drop out rates, etc. The area where I live, you see kids coming to school hungry, not well rested, full of anger, neglected, and on and on. If charter schools offer you the best education possible, you'd be neglectful by not taking advantage of them. So, are charter schools discriminatory? Yes. But, if you look into the future, well educated children will be well educated leaders.

        December 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
      • sharky

        victim of democrat hypocrisy

        ENOUGH with the stupid guilt trips already. Parents that send their own kids to public schools need to speak up and fight there. If a parent is sending their kid to charter schools well that is their choice and you have no right at all to sit there and make someone feel bad and play the victim saying what about us.

        Fight for your own public schools. Do NOT blame anyone else but yourselves. I attended private school all of my life, my parents and myself paid state taxes to fund public school there THAT is what we contributed. Is it no one else;s problem to deal with the public schools except those who attend them.

        December 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • g.r.r.

      CIP Parent, actually, there ARE charters failing. My son is about to go to a charter in Colorado, but I am fully aware that some of the charters in Colorado are disasters. Down in C. Springs and Pueblo are Charters that are very corrupt.

      December 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
      • CIP parent

        Any school that unsuccessful at providing an excellent education for our children should be replaced by one that does. That goes for traditional public schools, public charter schools, private or parochial school.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • sharky

      And Teachers Unions hate charter schools and want them shut down. The Teachers Unions filed a lawsuit against the charter school in NYC.

      December 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  33. Charter Alum

    As a 1998 graduate of a Charter School (practically the 1st of it's kind ), I can tell you it was the best educational experience of my life. Having attended Catholic private schooling for most of my life, going into a Charter School was a breath of fresh air. The teachers were much more collaborative, engaging, and genuinely cared about the students. It was essentially like going to a private school without the financial burden and the over the top old school way of doing things, not to mention a 'business casual' dress code.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • vel

      and I'm sure they could pick and choose the students that they accepted, unlike public schools so OF COURSE it's a better environment. But I guess it's just too bad that not everyone has this opportunity, only where charter schools deign to set up and those they deign to accept.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
      • Well?

        1) Charter admission is lottery based, they can't pick-and-choose like private schools can.
        2) Even if they can pick-and-choose, so what? So do the good public and private universities, so do employers. Welcome to real life

        December 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
      • victim of democrat hypocrisy

        That's not true. While some charters are lottery based, others are free to "cherry pick" the best and brightest, and still others may be converted from public schools and have the exact same neighborhood population. It depends on the district and what's contained in the particular school's charter.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
      • sharky

        @victim of democrat hypocrisy–

        They resort to a lottery when the enrollment is oversubscribed.

        December 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
      • Rational

        I work at a charter school that does not work on a lottery system. We are required by law to take every student that enrolls. We serve a population that is 60% socioeconomically disadvantaged and 20% have an IEP (disability). We do not cherry pick. EVER. We provide a service to students to educate them. We are not a corrupt, money-making operation. If we were, then our population would not grow by 20% each year. Parents love us and more importantly, they are telling their friends that they can see improvement with their childs education.

        December 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  34. CIP parent

    If you notice the people who oppose charter schools have alterior motives, they will talk about privatization, they will talk about how teachers jobs will be affected, they will say its a huge conspiracy to undermine public education. But as a Parent, my vested interest is not political or financial. My priority is children. And a school that closes the achievment gap, has high educational standards and demands accountability from there faculty is the new status quo. Like it or not, parents and children will no longer except the low standards by any school and we demand excellent schools regardless of who is running them.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • victim of democrat hypocrisy

      Perhaps one of your local charters has an adult spelling program.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
      • CIP parent

        Unfortunately I am a product of the traditional public eduaction system so please excuse grammatical errors.

        December 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Aces Full

      Very well put, thank you.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • seannickdad

        "rated Exemplary by the state of Texas." Not something I would be proud of, given the laughable education standards of the State of Texas. As far as "not putting up with" the behavior problems that public schools put up with, the charters have the choice, the public schools don't.

        And for the record, I have never spent a day in a public school as a student or as an educator. I merely recognize the truth.

        December 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  35. Dagmar Climo

    My children attend charter schools in Houston - Harmony School of Excellence and Harmony School of Advancement - both are rated Exemplary by the state of Texas. They have attended since elementary age and are thriving in school. Harmony offers things we weren't getting before, i.e. language courses beginning in fourth grade. They are academics first and they don't put up with the normal behavioral issues we were seeing in state/public schools. Harmony even has a Character Education class for all students. We couldn't be happier with the decision to put our kids in charter schools.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • victim of democrat hypocrisy

      Hey, that's great for your kids.
      Now what about the problem kids the charter school didn't want? The public schools are still responsible for them and expected to produce results. But that's not your concern because YOUR kids are now in a good school.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
      • Dagmar Climo

        Hello, "Victim" - actually the public schools are "your" problem. If you're not supportive of Charter Schools – -then it sounds like you have an opportunity to make your Public school better instead of complaining to those of us who worked to make a difference for our kids. As far as charter schools "not wanting" kids – that's a complete mischaracterization. Our school has different levels of academic standing available. It's not only GT kids getting in. You may want to do some more research. Good luck.

        December 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
      • victim of democrat hypocrisy

        I'm not complaining to you. I'm pointing out things pro-charter parents don't realize and don't consider because their concern is focused on their children and not education as a whole.
        So congratulations on getting a free quality education for your children. Now what about those left behind in the public schools? What happens to them when limited education funds are siphoned off to the charters?

        December 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
      • Huh?

        Are you directing anger at something that works and not against the ones that don't? I am confused.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
      • Huh?

        In response to "What happens to them when limited education funds are siphoned off to the charters?"

        Charter schools gets 80% of the funding compared to public school. So if the charter school didn't exist (no funds being siphoned off as you put it), then all the charter students would have to attend public school, where you no longer get the 20% savings. So by closing down charter schools, whether they do better or worse than the public schools, the funding strains will increase for the public school system

        December 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
      • sharky

        victim of democrat hypocrisy–

        You don't know much at all about charter schools. They receive LESS Government funding compared to Public Schools. A good deal of funding comes from private donations. If Public Schools are not receiving more funding perhaps it has to do with the school under-performing due to teachers and the unions making it so that teachers cannot be fired even if they are awful teachers and kids not learning anything due to the poor teachers, or kids are not attending school due to poor parenting.

        But get your facts straight before mouthing off and playing the victim. Apt name by the way. Funding for charter schools is some Government and a good portion private.

        December 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  36. CIP parent

    Misconceptions and straight out lies about Coney Island Prep addressed with truth:

    Lie: CIP handpicks genius kids from other neighborhoods to attend the school.
    Truth: all children are chosen through Random Lottery and 89 % of the children that attend are from Coney island. Kids that reside in the district get preference.

    Lie: they do not serve special needs students.
    Fact: CIP has the second highest percentage ofi children with an IEP in district 21 ( my child being one of them).

    Lie: they do not serve children from the community.
    Truth: the demographic of children attending are underpriveledged minorities who mostly receive free lunch and have attended traditional public school in the community

    December 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • formerteacher

      How is it a random lottery if kids that reside in the district get preference? I would also like to note that special needs vs non-special needs is not what makes or doesn't make a good student, some of the best students I taught were special needs. The key to a good learning environment is having students that want to be in school, want to learn and whose parents care enough to work with them and encourage them to get an education. These conditions are often lacking in the public schools.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
      • CIP parent

        Flyers were disributed to district parents so they were notified first of the lottery. Even though I reside in the district, my son didn't initially get in. He was 42nd on the waiting list. But fortunately we received a call one day because a spot opened up. Two years later, CNN is writing an article on its success. I Chose an excellent education for my child and its free.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
      • another former teacher

        You are right, former teacher, the key to a quality learning environment is having students who want to be in school...but the problem is not that charter schools "cherry pick' their students (though some HAVE found ways to do so, the majority of them do not-they are purely lottery based, even if preference is given to children in the district, that is still random). The problem is that many typical public schools in the neighborhoods where these charter schools are built are not places where ANYONE would want to be. Charter schools put pressure on typical public schools to improve the quality of what they offer, they push us to reconsider the traditional notions of education-perhaps we all SHOULD get to choose where we go to school so we can appreciate it? It's not the fault of a charter school that some of the typical public schools are not offering quality education. It is the responsibility of the schools in the district to rise to the occasion and demonstrate that they can hire quality teachers, provide quality programming and activities and raise the bar to help these children succeed. It is up to them to make their schools places where these kids want to be too; there is no reason that kids shouldn't want to be there just because it's available to them.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
      • JeramieH

        > I Chose an excellent education for my child and its free.

        Maybe you should have gotten one.

        December 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  37. Mairenn

    My daughter goes to a charter school in a rural area of Florida. Just down the road from our house. She's a freshman and had wanted to go to this school since 7th grade and we first learned of it. It's a school with a focus on the medical sciences and my daughter wants to study nursing. The teachers there either all have their PhD's in the subject matter they teach or are preparing for it. All have their Masters and one was voted Science Teacher for the 2010-2011 school year calendar. Their principal is the great moving force behind this school which is moving out of its temporary location to a facility which was once a hospital, was closed, renovated and will be my daughter's new school. Her grades are excellent, she has grown as a student; she is more analytical,more disciplined. I think charter schools are the wave of the future. As a parent who is very involved in my daughter's school life, I welcome this.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  38. Mitch

    One thing I've noticed and love....is that charter schools is that they are not saddled with the financial burden, nor distraction of special needs kids...

    December 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Mairenn

      Mitch, what I've observed in the charter school my daugjter attends is that there are no bullies or bullying incidents. Like their counselor told the kids on orientation day (which the parents were also required to attend) "you are alll bg fish in the big pond; you all represent the best of the best." So these kids don't have the mindset of cuting classes, getting an F is out of the questions; skipping school does not seem to be a problem. My daughter is blooming and I think it's the positive environment this school fosters. In her middle school, bullies, schools fights and even lock owns were common. Charter schools, at least the one our daughter attends, are very strict. One either maintains the grade point average they demand or the student is returned to their assigned public school. Some hours of volunteer service is required for gradutation; no excetions; at least one class taught at college level for college credit must be taken each semester. All in all, the requirements are very different and the environment seems to lead to a better school experience.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
      • Dawn

        Why don't public schools do the same thing then? Because we have to accept ALL students! NO exceptions.

        December 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • liz

      That is not true. It specifically states that these schools have a higher percentage of students with special needs. My first hand experience with charter schools specifically supports the author's statement... I have done work in the past with an art school in DC that has a large percentage of students with special needs. Charter schools can be particularly helpful to these students because they have greater flexibility in creating curriculum that actually works.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • victim of democrat hypocrisy

      Nor English learners.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
      • CIP parent

        There isn't many English language learners in Harlem but there was a dire need for education options.

        December 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Katie

      Mitch I"m sorry you don't understand what a Charter school is. They get LESS funding from public education and have to appeal to PARENTS to fund the deficit. Yes it's 'free' but believe me we pay. $5K a year minimum to help those who can't afford to help. AND, your other false statement: my son has special needs, autism - and we were lucky after 2 years to get into our charter. He had 5 out of 21 classmates with other special needs. Don't post idiocies please if you have no facts.

      December 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  39. MacDav

    If like charter schools, local schools could throw out the union,ignore foolish mandates,ignore state regents boards,enforce behavior in the class room,then maybe the teachers could teach and the children could learn.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • nuetral

      If teacher unions did not exist, teacher would make ven less and have less control in overcrowded classrooms. Why are people so eager to silence the voice of professionals?

      December 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  40. stayone

    i've worked in public schools, both suburban and urban. believe me, charter schools are the best way to go. anyone with kids, do your kids a favor. send them to charter schools. don't waste your time with public schools.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Mitch

      The nice thing about charter schools is that they are not saddled with the financial burden, nor distraction of special needs kids...only the strong survive there, the weak are ruled out....

      December 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
      • nuetral

        Correct. I don't think people understand the consequeces of charter schools. Do you pro-charter schoolers realize most schools require tuition? You have no idea what it takes to run a public school and how many stipulations and rules have to be considered. This charter deal is a clear seperation of the have and have-nots. Parents with the means can remove their children and place them in a better functioning system, only because it's more private. Public schools struggle because because states claim to have no money to spend on their most valuable resources.

        No other profession has suffererd more than educators this last decade. Most teacher salaries have been frozen for 5 years or more. That is a clear contribution to state and federal funding, on top of an already underpaid salary.

        remove the kids from the public system, the same problems will follow shortly.

        December 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  41. jan

    Yeah, Charter schools, just what the right wing ordered. If you think that none of these schools are faith based, think again. Our tax dollars are being abused by republicans with a control agenda. Time for people to ask for accounting on curriculum.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Dennis Bullard

      My son attends Spectrum Academy, a public charter school in North Salt Lake, Utah. Spectrum was designed to primarily support kids on the autism spectrum, but there are also children attending the school who are not. This school has done wonders for my son and hundreds of other children. It serves K-11 this year, and will include grade 12 next year, with over 500 students projected to be enrolled. The services our kids receive are just not available in the mainstream public school. Check out http://www.spectrumcharter.org

      December 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  42. Sarah Beene

    Charter schools while I think they are great in trying to ease the congestion of other schools nowadays, are having a tough time thriving. I feel like the educational expectations of charter schools don't quite agree with the norm of American society. Some cater to those in lower income neighborhoods where positive role models and good schools are lacking.

    I feel like America is the country of regulations. We're soon going to be over-regulating education in this country. Charter school will only be able to thrive in a certain way, under certain conditions, with certain students.

    Education is important, but only if it is allowed to grow organically to change the minds of the kids and improve the communities around them

    December 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  43. TinaM

    When I lived in the Twin Cities there were many different kinds of charter schools, including schools that were focused on a particular content area (like math/science, fine arts) or exposure to a particular language (like the Spanish language emersion schools). It seemed like a great system and parents seemed to be happy to have options.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  44. Don Jones

    Charter schools are the first step to the english type of education, which is definitely two teered. The chartered schools will perform better because they will be able to select their students, Those who are left will be left in poored lower achieving schools with a loweer grade of teacher because who wants to teach in an unrulie environment when they can teach in a charter school which can expell the the unrully students.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Daniel

      naacp is fighting charter schools tooth and nail in Georgia.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • hunter

      get your facts straight. charter schools can't pick their students, it is a lottery.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
      • Fernando

        jajajajajaja... do you really believe that/

        December 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
      • CIP parent

        I do because I sat through one. I witnessed the joy on the faces of those who were picked and the sadness on the faces of parents and children that weren't. My son didn't get picked. He was 42nd on the waiting list. Fortunately they called when a spot opened up and now everyone is commenting on a article that has reckognized their success.

        December 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • hunter

      charter schools can't expel students any more then regular schools. we follow the same guidelines as to what is considered expulsion or not. please, do some research before you comment.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
      • nuetral

        Get your facts straight. One of the so-called advantages of charters is the leniency and fading of red tape that allow admin to release students more esily than publics. Lotteries are only a small part of enrollees. Most charter schools require tuition. Some districts partially fund charters which mean they will have less say in what occurs and how business is conducted.

        December 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Dave

      While I agree that few (if any) Charter Schools get to 'pick' their students, it is only those students that apply for the lottery for a particular Charter School that are considered. We applied and had both our daughters attend a Charter School in Charlotte NC but the school had reputation of high academic standards, high parent involvement and thus there was somewhat of a selection process because students that did not have a strong academic or had parents willing (or able) to assist did not apply for the lottery.. So because the pool of students who applied had that strong academic background the end result is classes with students that achieved higher than average academic results.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  45. Proud Parent of a Coney Island Prep Scholar

    My daughter goes to Coney Island Prep (CIP). When she went to traditional public schools, she was in special education class with a 12:1:1 setting. Now she is in a 30:1:1 setting, no longer in special education and dreams of going to college. I want to know what is wrong with educating our children & be held accountable for it? Why is the UFT so threatened by having to be held accountable for what they teach & how they teach? Why do they need a union to do a "good" job? Why do they purposely misinform parents & the community? Change is never easy, but not one person can deny that change is needed in our Public School System.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Phil

      Public school student extreme speech delay, ended speech service in grade 6. Ended in class reading support at the end of Middle School. Withdrew from services in HS because he no longer wanted the identification. Arched higher in class and homework. Identified remaining difficulty as Junior with longer more difficult tests iE. Regents, SAT. Reestabilshed IEP at the end of HS. In a good University as Mechanical Engineer. Kudos public schools.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • nuetral

      No proud parent. Teachers are held responsible. So much, in fact, students can come to school to just keep their seats warm and do absolutly do nothing, but they're not help accountable for not trying..

      December 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  46. CIP parent

    I am a parent of a Coney Island Prep scholar. My son has an IEP and was labeled a special needs student. He did not attend a failing school and yet he was a failing student until he was chosen through random lottery to attend CIP. My son entered the 5 th grade reading on a 3 rd grade reading level. Within 3 months he grew by 1 1/2 years in reading levels. When my son is absent, they call to check on him, when he is struggling in a class, they stay late after school to tutor him. He has been on class trips to the campuses of Yale, Princeton, Brown, and Tufts universities. He wants to attend Tufts University after graduation. Their motto is PRIDE: Professonalism Respect Integrity Determination Excellence. This is the type of eduacation all children should receive.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Fernando

      I guess you found someone to raise your kid for you... how lucky!!!!

      December 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • JeramieH

      What does a class trip to Yale mean for anything?

      December 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  47. WC

    Whenever you see reports of initially wondrous gains in any program (such as a charter school) you must beware of the Westinghouse effect. Just telling someone that they are in a special program may be enough to produce measurable change–even if that change involves putting children into a school with inexperienced, underpaid teachers.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  48. Sherri

    Charter schools were established here in the area where I live, and they failed miserably. The premise was good- more structure, more teacher/student interaction, more expectation of appropriate conduct, etc. That is good, and you would think it would lead to a positive result. Unfortunately, it did not. The school administration soon began to reject certain lottery winners and 'create' a student body more to their tastes. ( I fully realize this may not be the norm). Then the curriculum began to change to the point that the students were not meeting the state mandates in basic core subjects...Enlglish, Math, Science, etc. All in all , over time, the charter schools lost their charters, and other than a few private schools, all faith based, the majority of students in this county attend public school. The concept is positive, the implementation is subject to how devoted the administrations are. The faith based schools have their pluses and minuses as well. One large one being that some students have difficulty when they enter non faith base high schools or college-again more of a curriculum issue than anything else. Schools are only as successful as those who administer them have the desire for them to be. They are faced with a plethora of parents who want to be friends and not parents. The old fashioned dress codes, conduct codes, open campuses, etc have to be factored in as well, because in those times, students learned consequences for not adhering to the rules. I think it's safe to say that at all levels, charter , private , public, our educational system is in peril and the ones paying the largest price for that is the students.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  49. graham

    interesting

    December 15, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  50. Phil

    Strong Public Education is a Traditional American Right
    Corporations Which Lobby Greedy Politicians are Cherry Picking Students whose Families Who Can Afford to Pay. Still the quality of that education is not superior to public schools. Will these Corparations educate all Americans to an equal standard?

    December 15, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  51. follow the money

    For a different perspective....
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/19/2541051/florida-charter-schools-big-money.html
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/13/2545377/academica-florida-richest-charter.html

    December 15, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  52. Nonelitist

    Charter schools used to be called private schools-they changed the name because private schools were elitist. Unfortunately they don't appear to have changed their habits. Yes, they're more successful-because they weed out the 99% least likely to succeed. The biggest question is whether or not private schools should be publicly funded. I say No-public funding is just another way the 1% take money from the 99%.

    December 15, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • thenewsjunkie

      Cearly you didn't even bother to read the article. The school's founder said they know nothing about the students applying to be at the school. He said they enter through a lottery and they have to accept everyone regardless of their background and learning ability. Stop basing your statements on uniformed opinion.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:08 am |
      • j-o-h-n

        It's still a self-selected sample - the bottom of the barrel parents don't bother applying.

        December 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
      • Fernando

        thruth is that only parents who are really proactive in their kids education apply to this type os schools, so that's one advantage that these kids have over the others. Why don't you pass by a public school in November and notice how many kids are forced to leave their charter school b/c they don't meet criteria?

        December 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • C. Smith

      The only thing these children have in common that separates them from the students that remain in the regular public schools is parents who are interested in their success enough to get them out of a failing system and try something new. That does give the students an edge many of their counterparts lack, but its not enough by itself to explain such success.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • hunter

      your facts are so wrong. charter schools were never called private and they are all lottery. if they are not lottery they are shut down. please get your facts correct.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  53. Jennifer

    In the NJ/NY area for every charter school that opens 4 out of 5 fail and close. The money pocketed by the investors and the state left with the bill. We could just put all that work and resources into out public schools and education system, but that would be to easy...

    December 15, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • C. Smith

      Actually, many of them fail because the Teacher's Union protests them, blocks them at the bureaucratic level, and generally causes trouble for them in every imaginable way.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:29 am |
      • victim of democrat hypocrisy

        Yeah, that makes no sense, because teachers unions don't have any clout to cause a charter school to fail.

        December 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
      • sharky

        victim of democrat hypocrisy–

        *falling over laughing* Oh really? Democrats favor the teacher unions they provide the biggest financial donations to the Democratic party. Some public funding goes to the Charter Schools, though they still receive plenty of private donations. Teachers Unions attack the charter schools in fact at least one in NYC was sued by the teachers union. All it takes is then appealing to the lovely politicians to come in and find something wrong to then close it down. Teachers Unions can complain heavily, blackmail probably politicians cause funding to dry up or other sorts of investigations. Not to mention if you also get special interest groups also involved like the NAACP. You do not get it.

        December 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Chris

      I always thought that they fail because they are only in inner cities (like JC, Paterson and Camden) and they take in poor, underprivileged individuals who are failing miserably in the local school and don't have a supportive home life to help them out. You can bring a horse to water.. but you can't make them drink.

      December 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • thenewsjunkie

      Jennifer, can you tell us your source for this 4 out of 5 statistic? I believe it's way off. As for pouring the work and resources into the public school system haven't they been trying that for the past two decades to turn it around but have been unsuccessful? I think the biggest challenge when it comes to charter schools is maintaining continuity and success over the long term. Successful charters are often started by dynamic individuals on a mission to do better. They relay on a young, dedicated staff. Often, members of that staff burn out quickly because of the additional commitments placed on them. A school's founder may not stay with that school for a lifetime The true test for charters will be wether they can maintain their successes over the long term.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
      • thenewsjunkie

        sorry for my typos, I was in a rush

        December 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  54. bigfoot

    The biggest variable in any kind of school is the children's eagerness to learn in a structured environment. Teachers can motivate to an extent, but if the child doesn't want to learn, then nothing will help. Unfortunately, American society doesn't value grade school education as much as many Asian societies where academic excellence at in high school is a stepping stone to a better college and so on.

    December 15, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  55. old and tired,,

    If I may quote from the article, "Some critics claim that charter schools attract better students and more involved parents,". Huh? Shame on parents and achieving students for wanting to do better!! They should stay in the crime ridden, drug infested schools in their neighborhood! Leave the better chance of education for the ones that can afford to send their children to parochial schools! You grunts should all know and accept your place in this world.

    December 15, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • thenewsjunkie

      I think the point with that was these schools/students are more likely to succeed because the parents are more involved and that's a huge factor in a child's success.

      December 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
      • Chris

        Well that's the key. Parents are the biggest educators in a child's life. If you don't have a supportive home life, then it is very hard to do well in school. And that's the problem. Most parents just think that schools are day cares so they don't have to deal with their own kids. When kids do poorly in school, they blame the school.... not the parents.

        December 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • You missed the point

      It wasn't a slam on the parents. It was a mere statement of fact: those are parents care about their kids' education, so their kids are more likely to succeed and are grouped together into a charter school, versus kids whose parents do not care, and are likely to simply be left in the public schools. It is nothing to do with the charter school per se, but just with separating students with active and involved parents from students without.

      December 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm |