Charter schools rising

Even as Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and President Bush were struggling to shine the best possible light on (the mostly disappointing) 2005 NAEP scores (The Nation's Report Card), charter school supporters have reason to celebrate. Fourth-grade charter school students nationwide improved on their 2003 scores, especially in reading, "at a faster rate than students in traditional public schools," according to a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) analysis. The trends are especially encouraging for poor and minority fourth-grade students. "African-American, Latino, and low-income charter students ... registered larger reading gains than their fourth-grade peers" in non-charter public schools." Moreover, "gains among Hispanic charter fourth graders were so strong that [these students] have opened a 10-point gap with non-charter students." The news wasn't as rosy for eighth-grade charter students, who trail their non-charter public school counterparts both in math and in reading. Bryan Hassel of Public Impact sounds a word of caution. "There's no way, using NAEP tools, to determine if the differences in scores are statistically significant," he told the Gadfly in an interview. Still, the charter progress is positive, though all of the nation's schools have a long way to go before anyone can declare success.

"Charter Schools Closing Achievement Gap in Fourth Grade Reading and Math," National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, October 2005

"Education Law Gets First Test in U.S. Schools," by Sam Dillon, New York Times, October 20, 2005

"Closing the Achievement Gap: 2005 NAEP Reading and Math Results Show Some Gains, But Slowing Progress," The Education Trust, October 19, 2005