The Thanksgiving holiday may have drawn attention away from some noteworthy analysis by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which called into question whether states should mandate special-education enrollment targets for charter schools, as New York State has done.
Why? Consider what CRPE found when it compared special-education enrollment patterns at charter schools and traditional schools throughout New York:
- Enrollment patterns of high-need students at charter middle and high schools are indistinguishable from those at school districts;
- Whatever discrepancy exists, it’s found mostly between charter schools and district schools at the elementary level;
- And there is variation among charter authorizers; some authorizers oversee charters whose special education enrollments mirror those at district schools.
In other words, CRPE argues, a statewide difference in charter and district enrollments is too simplistic of a comparison. But even analyzing the variation at each grade level is no easy task. For instance, why would charter elementary schools concerned about their performance marks discriminate against special-education students if state testing doesn’t begin until the third grade? Could it be that charter schools are less likely to identify a student as having special needs (as the New York City Charter School Center has suggested) or that specialized district preschool programs “feed” a greater share of students into district elementary schools?
A statewide difference in charter and district special-education enrollments is too simplistic of a comparison.
The fact that these questions persist implies that the 2010 state legislature rushed these enrollment targets into
The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program remains perhaps the most scrutinized voucher initiative of its kind, so it’s not surprising that it finally got a “review” from the Washington Post, and not a very positive one at that. The Post team determined that the program is subject to few quality controls and asserted that “the government has no say over curriculum, quality or management,” despite the fact that some schools collect more than 90 percent of their revenues from the voucher program.
Of course, governments have little to no say over the curricula at any private school that participates in any of the voucher and tax-credit-scholarship programs that exist presently in fifteen states—as well they shouldn’t. But some state governments have, in recent years, held their voucher programs to account for producing decent results, and that’s where the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program has fallen short.
Private schools that participate in the D.C. program must provide parents with the academic progress of their own children along with the aggregate performance of their children’s grade-level peers, but that’s as far as school-level disclosure goes. Students receiving vouchers must take standardized tests every year, but their results are not made public; they go instead to independent evaluators who determine the program’s overall academic impact.
By contrast, Republican-controlled statehouses in Indiana and Louisiana recently enacted voucher legislation that not only requires private schools to administer the same standardized test given at public schools but stops the
That’s right! It’s the release of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual “Market Share” report, which shows the percentage of students in major cities that are educated by charters.
I love this thing. It is chronicling a renaissance in urban public education.
The report is a yearly reminder of the amazing growth of charter schools and, more importantly, the expendability of the urban district.
Anyone who doubts the premise of my new book The Urban School System of the Future (reviewed here by Checker, here by Education Next, here by Sarah Tantillo)—that we can move beyond the failed district structure and create a system of schools based on the principles of chartering—need only spend a couple moments with this document.
In 15 cities, a quarter of public-school-attending students or more are now enrolled in charter schools. See the following examples:
- Indianapolis: 25%.
- Cleveland: 28%
- St. Louis: 31%
- Kansas City: 37%
- Washington, D.C.: 41%
- Detroit: 41%
- New Orleans: 76%
When charters began 20 years ago, no one imagined that this was possible—that this new way of delivering public education would provide the desperately needed alternative to the dreadful district system.
But before our eyes, chartering is replacing the district in America’s cities, showing that new schools can be started, failing schools can be closed, great schools can be expanded, and parents can exercise choice within public education.
You’ll find lots of other interesting tidbits in the report, including the areas where charters are
Charter schools in at least six cities and counties will benefit from local bonds and levies that voters approved on Election Day. Collectively, that means more than $500 million of local tax dollars over the next several years for charter-school facility or operating costs in Cleveland; San Diego; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Metropolitan Denver (including school districts in Denver proper, Aurora, and Jefferson County). Why the sudden generosity in places that (with the exception of Denver) historically have barely tolerated charters, if that? Some charter leaders say school systems might have realized that it’s become harder to ask parents to pay higher taxes only for district schools when so many more of them are choosing charter schools for their children. Indeed, voters in these regions have joined a handful of other cities that, over the past few years, have set aside local dollars for charters by ballot initiative, when most districts and state legislatures still refuse to do so. Of course, voters might have never seen these ballot questions had it not been for legislators (like those in Colorado) who rewrote laws a few years ago, forcing districts to “invite” charters to discuss the needs of all public schools before requesting bonds or levies. But whatever the reason, the response from voters is encouraging: A whopping $350 million share of a $2.8 billion bond in San Diego will aid charter-school facility needs over the next
About the Editor
Director, Program on Parental Choice
Adam Emerson is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s school choice czar, directing the Institute’s policy program on parental choice and editing the Choice Words blog. He coordinates the Institute’s school choice-related research projects, policy analyses and commentaries on issues that include charter schools and public school choice along with school vouchers, homeschooling and digital learning.
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