Charter schools: The debate continues
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks with students during an event to build a playground at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. on June 15, 2011.
December 22nd, 2011
03:04 PM ET

Charter schools: The debate continues

by Donna Krache, CNN

With recent statistics indicating that more students than ever are enrolled in charter schools, there’s no end in sight to the ongoing debate over which is more effective in educating our kids: Traditional public or charter schools. A newly released report offers potential talking points for both sides.

On Wednesday, the Center for Education Reform  issued “The State of Charter Schools.”  According to the report, 1,036 of  about 6,700 charter schools – about 15% - have “closed for cause” since the first charter law was passed in 1992. Among the major reasons cited for those closures, according to the report, are financial, mismanagement, academic performance, facilities and district obstacles.

Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, called performance-based accountability “the hallmark of the charter school concept,” in the report, but also noted the importance of parental choice: More than 19 million parents “have had public school choices they would otherwise never have had,” according to Allen. This is especially the case for those who do not have the financial means to pay for a private education, she said.

In other charter schools news this week:

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law that removes the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.  The measure also introduces new reporting and accountability standards for charters.  Charter schools continue to enjoy parental as well as political support on state and federal levels.

In Thursday’s post on The Educated Reporter, writer Emily Richmond focuses on heavy expectations being put upon charter schools. She reports that Chicago is adding 12 more charters in spite of a recent report calling performance at its current charter schools “lackluster.” Richmond asks why having the “luxury” of mandating parent involvement hasn’t translated into more clear-cut academic success. You can read the full post here.

Your thoughts on the topic

Here on the Schools of Thought blog, Steve Kastenbaum’s story “Charter schools: Wave of the future?” generated a lot of discussion. Parents and teachers weighed in on charter schools vs. traditional public schools, teachers’ unions, the “cherry-picking” of students vs. accepting all, poverty and parental involvement. Here’s a sampling of some of the comments from our readers:

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. (from xpxpxp)

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. (from thenewsjunkie)

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. (from Sherri)

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. (from Stayone)

If you notice the people who oppose charter schools have ulterior motives, they will talk about privatization, they will talk about how teachers’ jobs will be affected, they will say it’s a huge conspiracy to undermine public education. But as a parent, my vested interest is not political or financial. My priority is children. (from CIP parent)

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. (from Danny)

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. (from Dave – Michigan)

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. (from DeeNYC)

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 ratio 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. (from JoJo)

At Schools of Thought we will continue to cover this topic and look forward, as we always do, to hearing your opinions.

Posted by
Filed under: Charter schools • Issues • Policy • Practice
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. MKULTRA BRAINCHIPMAN

    MILLIONS TO BE ASSASSINATED FOR THE SAKE OF $$$ LIABILITIES(mk-ultra, chip implants, electroshocks etc. performed on them) AND NEW WORLD ORDER(multiculturalism = terrorism) POLITICAL AGENDA KNOWN AS "YOU ARE NEXT...YOU ARE NEXT"(liabilities are 2 expensive for the government and it is cheaper to get read of you instead !!! NOW YOU KNOW WHAT US CONGRESS IS SOOO BUSY WITH WHEN PLAYING IN FRONT OF CAMERAS WHERE CLAIMING ONLY HOW SOMETHING HAVE TO BE DONE WHILE KNOWINGLY OMITTING AND IGNORING FACTS OF GENOCIDE AS SEEN ON THIS WELL KNOWN COMPLAIN )!!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/

    LEARN TRUTH ABOUT UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS !!! NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!!

    ABDUCTIONS / BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / FORCEFUL UNEMPLOYMENT / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING AGAINST WHITE(under "NAZI" lie) CIVILIAN POPULATION TODAY IN 2011/2012 ACROSS THE EUROPE AND NORTHERN AMERICA !!!

    http://myshortbiography.blogspot.com/

    WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship of genocide ever !!!)!!

    This news is related to WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!!


    OR
    http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec <== OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009 !!! These are hard facts about lunatic Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against whites per ZIONIST Washington DC and in complete agreement with communist Moscow !!!

    EXILING WHITES WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE AND IMPORTING NON WHITES IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS COMPLETELY FREE.

    December 27, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  2. lmsleader

    If you want public schools to be successful, you MUST eliminate tenure and teachers unions! Many teachers don't care and they only want to make things easier for THEM!

    December 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  3. A Lloyd Flanagan

    People on both sides of this debate are making arguments based on two things: their personal experience or their ideological biases. Perhaps we should base these decisions on the evidence instead. What the evidence seems to be saying is that the charter v. public school divide is less important than other factors. How about we find out what those are?

    December 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • aflarend

      Great Point! And there is plenty of evidence out there about it. There are studies from Stanford that show the minimal effects of charter schools. The international test PISA has been analyzed and found that world wide, private school students do not score better than public school students, once socioeconomic status is factored in. We (the education world) know the power of the home / community environment. It is not that people in poverty cannot learn, it is that, compared to upper middle class, they have a less intellectually simulating environment which includes things as simple as how children are talked to when they are young, is reading a natural activity in the home, and of course basic physical needs of food, shelter and safety. However, these issues are much more difficult to address than merely allowing for charter schools and mindless, endless testing. If you look at those top performing countries, they do NOT test like we do and the funding for their schools is way more equitable along with lower rates of childhood poverty (which is over 20% in the US)

      December 26, 2011 at 8:16 am |
      • Talking Points

        Charter employee spouting talking
        points

        December 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  4. Marta O

    Our country needs to start focusing on education, instead of funding foreign aid. I moved to USA with my mom when I was just 10 years old. I came from what is considered a 2nd world country, Ukraine. In USA was placed into 5th grade after graduating 3rd grade in Ukraine, and I found the math that is done in 5th grade very very dumbed down. Kids are just not challenged enough, they are dumbed down. I went to what is considered an ok neighborhood school, and education was quiet poor. USA kids score worse than most European countries. I think its ironic that Americans, talk how of a great country its is, ( I personally don't disagree, USA gave me a lot of opportunities where I wouldn't have received anywhere else) but claiming that Americans are number 1 is wrong. We might have been number one in 50's or 60's but not anymore, we are falling behind. We have to stop debating about gay marriage, gay rights, whether to teach or not to teach religion in schools, whether we are for or against abortions, we need to put away our American pride, get passports do some traveling, learn some foreign languages, and focus on our education and on us. My parents decided to put me into private high school. In middle school was a top 5 student, president of honor society, but when I got to private high school, I was one of the worst students there. I was very very behind the student body. How can that happen? Today I have a lot of friends around the world, Itly, Germany, Austria, and they got pretty much the same education as me but they didn't pay $18,000 per year. How can that be? Our country needs to start to opening students horizons and stop dumbing down our population. We need to move forward.

    December 25, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • jay

      If you feel you that you can do better, then become a teacher,until you do, shhhhhhh!

      December 25, 2011 at 11:09 am |
      • Justin Hobson

        "Shhhh," really? Can we be a bit more constructive in our comments?

        December 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  5. jay

    Obviously after reading these comments, most people here are not teachers. Demonizing unions, blaming teachers and school districts. While some of these components have bad moments, in my experience (teacher for 8 years), most of this is done by parents who try to compensate for choosing their careers over parenting and have a sense of guilt, and when their child misbehaves or doesn't achieve they compensate by saying that its the union's fault, or it's the teachers fault, or the school district has let my child down and then they state that their child could never do something wrong or its the teachers fault that my child did not do his or her work. They take no responsibility for their child. Parenting is done by parents not teachers or the school district. It is time that we look at our current generation of students and recognize that they have no fear of or respect for authority and take little to no responsibility for their own actions because they know that their parents will complain to administration and blame someone else. Its time for PARENTS to support your teachers and schools rather than searching for a scapegoat for your lack of parenting. Schools are a success where you have more parents taking an active role in their child's education and teaching their children that there are consequences for not behaving or not doing work and that they will be held accountable for such. So until you understand what it take to be a teacher and the B.S. that we have to deal with on a daily basis that takes away form our goal of educating children, just be silent, and if you choose to take responsibility for your own children and do your own parenting, which is not a teacher's job, your schools will be able to retain quality teachers and not have them chased off, which are keys to your children's and their school's success!

    December 25, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  6. Glen the Man

    The only reason there is a debate is because Unions and Democrats

    December 25, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Talking Points

      You are right dumb dan
      Get rid of unions, dems, free will, free speech and just let the Repugs run it
      all – they are so moral.
      You are right dumb dan

      December 26, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  7. CG In PA

    The charter school in my area teaches respect, hope, responsibility, courage, justice, compassion, integrity and wisdom as core values. What public school teaches this? My children wear uniforms to help with bullying about who wears what clothes. Charter schools are extremely important and offer children an education they would also normally get in a public school. Not to go any further, but there are so many benefits to charter schools.

    December 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  8. aflarend

    So charter schools are offer academic success because so many of them shut down due to financial problems? This is a ridiculous assertion. Also, it does a great disservice to students if they are forced to change schools because their school closes due to mismanagement. This is equivalent to the problem of teacher turnover in high poverty school districts. The charters have not been the saving grace that they were touted to be because education is not as easy as outsiders think it is. Education is a complex web of community, families, politics and psychology.

    December 24, 2011 at 6:55 am |
  9. douglas james

    What is success? Can someone please give me a definitive answer? I taught for 34 years and still trying to figure out the answer to that question? Who defines success? When does one know when they have succeeded? Help this 68 year old retired teacher out with what it all means?

    December 24, 2011 at 4:41 am |
  10. Jesus

    Maybe people get higher grades at a Charter school because it is easier
    Who knows.

    December 24, 2011 at 3:26 am |
    • CG In PA

      It is not because they are easier. Children are taught with responsibility for getting their work done. The day is a little longer allowing the child to learn easier instead of rushing so much information into their tiny brains.

      December 24, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  11. Yvonne

    Charter schools are the way to go. They offer a completely different enviroment . Obviously the regular public schools are NOT Working especially in NYC

    December 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  12. Jess

    I finished my last two years of high school in a charter school. My grades went from d's and c's to a' and a few b's. Since then I have continued my education. At my public high school I would get lost in the crowd. I personally chose to go to a charter school because everyone there seemed so eager to help me succeed. Also in the charter school I was able to become involved in so many programs that my school couldn't offer me.

    December 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  13. larry5

    The idea of a charter school means that somewhere someone is losing control of a school district, a budget or a domain. That's a tough sell. These considerations happen without regard to the effect on students. Students are there for the head count and budget. The administrators are far too important to give more than lip service to their needs. They are driven by teacher's unions and politics. The students are just along for the ride. Charter schools are a must because children are different and so are teachers.

    December 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • CG In PA

      Larry,
      You hit the nail on the head. I feel teachers should be paid for their actions, not as part of a union. For goodness sake we are talking children here.To take children out of school for several weeks is wrong. Treat the teachers with respect and supply them with good benefits and pay them for their degree and how well they teach the children and they would be much happier.

      December 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  14. Susan - FL

    I am a single mother of 3 teenagers, and we are originally from Mass.We moved here almost 7 years ago. While in Mass I was told my youngest (at the time he was 6!) Had ADD,ADHD or just plain had "some type of learing disability. I was horrified and demanded the school to test him by professionals, which they did. He scored a 106 on his IQ test and 2 points below the gifted test. We ran into the same problems when we moved, and if I had a dime for every teacher who told me "well, I've got 22 other kids in my class, I can't focus all of my time on one" I would be a very wealthy woman. The fact is not all children learn the same. Its NOT a disability, that's an excuse for teachers who are either overwhelmed or just don't care. I myself have volunteered in my childrens schools since day one, so I have had a front row seat to this. I finally decided to put my son in a Charter School. His self-confidence has gone up, he actually likes school and for the first time since first grade, he's bringing home A's and B's. That's all the proof I need. Not all children can learn in a classroom with 22 other children, it doesn't mean they have a "learning disability" it just means they learn differently. And as a parent, I am extremley grateful for this particular Charter School. He will remain there until he graduates, and isn't that what we all want for our children? No child left behind? Mine was.

    December 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • CG In PA

      Charter schools offer courage. They help children to focus on their learning, not what everyone else is learning. I am so glad to hear you found a good replacement for your son.

      December 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Gifted with ADHD

      Being gifted does not prevent someone from having ADD. Having a gifted child with ADD in class CAN cause significant issues with other students in the class if your child causes disruptions which distract those not as able. I am glad your student has found a more appropriate setting but that does not change the fact that such students can be a hindrance to others learning environment.

      Signed Current teacher former Gifted student with ADHD

      December 25, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  15. Robin B

    My special education child was physically abused by a teacher at our neighborhood school. A charter school gave him a way to be educated away from the abusive teacher. Thank goodness for school choice.

    December 23, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  16. Cap Lee

    The story is the same, only the names have changed to protect the guilty. Or, The more we change, the more we stay the same. Whether they be charter, choice, chance, private or public they still use a false indicator of success. This means even "successful" schools could be failures and failed schools could be successful. The only solution is the change that would occur with "Innovative Schools" within the traditional public schools. http://savingstudents-caplee.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-design-for-innovative-schools.html These schools must be allowed to assess kids and schools on true indicators of achievement. This is unlikely because most want to maintain the same people in the subclass and under this plan, the last might well become first. Pretty scary isn't it? (Not to me)

    December 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm |