Vigilance Critical in Charter School Movement, Advocate Explains

A nationwide survey by the New York Times reveals that academic performance in U.S. charter schools is lower than in regular public schools. The findings show fourth-graders attending charter schools are about half an academic year behind their public school counterparts in reading and math.

According to the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in Washington, DC, almost 3,000 charter schools are now operating in the United States. Those independent public schools are typically free of the traditional “red tape” associated with district public schools, but are accountable for their results.

Justin Torres is a charter school advocate and research director at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. Torres says children going into charter schools have been ill-served by traditional public schools and often are a year or two behind their age cohort in terms of educational achievement. And while not questioning the NYT survey, he believes charter school children present educational challenges that the general run of students in traditional district schools do not.

“I think it's also important to keep in mind that charters are new,” Torres points out. “Most charters are under five years old, and they need some time to get their 'sea legs' moving [and] under them. It's also important to remember that there's accountability in the charter school movement. If charter schools aren't performing up to snuff, they can and will be closed.”

Torres also says the results of the survey should by no means dissuade parents from sending their children to charter schools. Even charter supporters like him, he says, need to recognize there are some problem schools in the charter school movement.

“All charter schools are not created equal,” he explains, “and we need to be very vigilant about designing interventions to help out schools that are failing.” And if those interventions are not successful in turning a school around, he says, that provides opportunity for one of the advantages of the charter school movement. “Being willing to close them [is] part of an accountable charter school movement in an accountable charter school that has integrity, I think.”

Torres notes that the charter school movement is willing to put failing schools “out of their misery” by shutting them down, but the traditional district school system has never been willing to do that.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press).

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