A Matter of Choice Part 2

A Matter of Choice Part 2

S.E. Williams

California’s Tumultuous Relationship with Charter Schools, Part 2 of 4

“Charter schools get overwhelmingly positive press and make a lot of claims about their success. But actually, numerous studies confirm that their achievement is indistinguishable from that of traditional public schools. Some are very successful, some are troubled and struggling, and the rest are somewhere in between just like traditional public schools.”

– Change.org

Part 1 of this four-part series examined the history of charter schools and the choice they now offer parents regarding their children’s education. 

The charter school movement rests on the premise that competition would naturally evolve between traditional public schools and charter public schools. A general belief existed that eventually such competition would lead to a better educational experience for all children. 

Twenty-five years since the introduction of public charter schools in California more and more parents have exercised their preference for charter schools as their choice for their children’s education. In addition, the competition between traditional public schools and charter schools has remained intense as indicated by the plethora of legislative activity from both sides discussed in Part 1 of this series. 

Perhaps the most pressing question to be asked after twenty-five years, is whether charter schools have delivered on what they promised in terms of innovation and improved, quality education. 

According to an assessment by the Center for Public Education (CPE), on average students at 17 percent of the nation’s charter schools performed “significantly better” than they would have, had they attended traditional public schools in their neighborhoods. On the contrary, students at 37 percent of the nation’s charter schools performed significantly worse. The bottom line—results indicate a combine 83 percent of the nation’s charter schools performed at or below the level of traditional public schools.

Perhaps the most encouraging results of the CPE analysis of charter schools pertained to students in charter high schools. The analysis confirmed that, “charter high schools score higher on college entrance exams (i.e., SAT or ACT) and are more likely to graduate high school and attend college than similar students in traditional public schools.” 

The CPE analysis provided a good snapshot of charter schools’ average performance nationally, however results varied from state to state. Last month, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released its fifth "Portrait of the Movement" report. 

During 2015-2016, charter schools educated approximately nine percent of the state’s K-12 student population. CCSA reported the state’s charter schools achieved academic success across a variety of student demographics, geographies and charter school types. The agency reported seventeen percent of the state’s charter schools rated in the top tenth of performance statewide and nearly a third of them performed in the top quartile. 

Next week, in Part 3 of this series, The Voice/Black Voice News will look in detail at one of the state’s top performing charter schools in contrast to charters performing on the opposite end of the performance spectrum.

About The Author

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