Charter Schools Growing Rapidly Nationwide; But At What Price?
Charter Schools are currently the most rapidly growing sector of public education in America.
According to a recent report, enrollment rose by 200,000 students during the 2011-2012 school year.
And while many – including our friends in Congress – are big fans of charter schools, others say they’ve moved away from their intitial mission, and do not outperform traditional public schools.
Additionally, the more charter schools there are, the harder it will be to track their progress.
But that growth, some experts say, comes at a price. Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University, has been hired by several states to evaluate their charter schools. According to Miron, charters have strayed from their original design as small, innovative pilot schools that gain flexibility by avoiding bureaucratic hindrances like district-imposed curricula and unionized teachers. These days, 42 percent of charter students attend schools that are managed by franchises known as education management organizations (EMOs), Miron said.
“Instead of having more niche, innovative schools, we’re seeing larger and larger schools,” he said. “This is being driven by the private EMOs, who continue to grab a larger portion of the market share.” Miron anticipates that within a few years, fully half of charter students will attend the bigger schools.
Yet a stream of research has shown that, on average, charter schools don’t outperform traditional public schools. The most cited study, conducted by Stanford University, found that “in the aggregate charter schools are not advancing the learning gains of their students as much as traditional public schools.” Charter schools located in cities, particularly New York City, tend to perform better, and some franchises, such as the Knowledge Is Power Program, perform particularly well.
“Scaling up sheer numbers is very different than scaling up schools that show promise to be both effective and sustainable,” said Luis Huerta, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “Let’s not confuse more with better.”
Is the unchecked growth of charter schools a good thing for public education?
Sound off below!