Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Charter schools through rose-colored glasses

Look for Louisiana's charter school supporters to promote this new study from Stanford University in a big way.

The survey of charter schools in 16 states reveals that, overall, charters do not perform as well as regular public schools. But in Louisiana, researchers found, charter schools are outperforming their traditional counterparts in reading and math.

This article by Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr delves into some of the possibilities, noting especially that Louisiana has more stringent guidelines for establishing charter schools than other states.

Louisiana also has fewer charters than other states in the survey, which could prove cautionary to those who'd like to wholesale transfer our public schools to charters. Future charter school performance could depend more on what lead author Margaret Raymond termed "quality control."

As Carr's article puts it:
Louisiana officials would do well to heed that advice, several educators and
activists note, as dozens of charter schools come up for renewal over the next
couple of years. They point out that the state has yet to create an effective
oversight apparatus for charter schools or a clear rubric for evaluating their
performance, beyond test scores.

There are a couple of questions that need to be raised. For one, the cherry-picking aspect of charter schools needs to be explored more fully. Charters can be more selective than traditional public schools, and admission is often by parental choice. That means the most engaged parents - the ones who take the most interest in their children's academic careers - could be more likely to both enroll their children in charter schools and work to ensure their success.

Also, Louisiana has fewer special education students enrolled in charter schools than most of the states in the survey. The inclusion of more special education programs in charter schools will be a major issue in the future, especially as long as standardized test scores are the predominant gauge of student success.

No comments: