Argument: Charter schools perform no better than public schools

Issue Report: Charter schools


“Reining in Charter Schools”. New York Times (Editorial). May 10, 2006 – The for-profit companies boasted of improved student performance in their ads and year-end reports but often refused to make public the test scores that would support their claims.

Data from Michigan and several other states suggests that failing schools do not improve as a consequence of for-profit management and that commercially run public schools often perform no better than other public schools. Increasing awareness of that data has prompted districts to write tough contracts that let them fire education companies that do not meet specific performance targets.

Greg Toppo. “Charter schools fail to top their public peers”. USA Today. August 22, 2006 – Independently run, publicly financed charter schools perform no better than comparable public schools, long-awaited federal data suggested Tuesday.

Long considered a ticket out for students in poor public schools, charter schools have proliferated nationwide and are among reforms favored by the Bush administration. In Washington, D.C., one in four students attends one.

But Tuesday’s report, which for the first time compares the performance of students in charters with that of public school peers in similar neighborhoods, finds that charter school students lag slightly.

The data show, for instance, that charter school students in 2003 were several points behind their counterparts in both reading and math in fourth and eighth grades. Standardized math scores in urban charters also lagged, but reading scores were comparable.

The results prompted Mark Schneider, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, to comment that the charter school movement is “not doing harm.”

Edward McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers, along with other charter school critics, says the report “provides further evidence against unchecked expansion of the charter school experiment.”

“America’s Charter Schools: Results From the NAEP 2003 Pilot Study”. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). 2003 – In reading, there was no measurable difference in performance between charter school students in the fourth grade and their public school counterparts as a whole. This was true, even though, on average, charter schools have higher proportions of students from groups that typically perform lower on NAEP than other public schools have. In reading, as in mathematics, the performance of fourth-grade students with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds in charter schools and other public schools was not measurably different.

There are also instances where the performance of students with shared characteristics differed. For example, among students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, fourth-graders in charter schools did not score as high in reading or mathematics, on average, as fourth-graders in other public schools.