Greener pastures

Refuting the widely-held notion that charter schools cater almost exclusively to urban communities and minority students, the Columbus Dispatch reports that suburban and rural students are making up an increasing percentage of charter school rolls in the Buckeye State. Non-district sponsored charters, which are limited by Ohio state law to urban and/or low performing districts, are trying to respond to the demand, moving away from the inner city and relocating on district boundaries to improve access for this new student population. But the Dispatch's presentation of the figures makes it sound like this is an exodus we ought to lament, since the suburban and rural districts that are losing pupils are also losing the dollars that go with them. But what's not mentioned is that the districts losing the most students are also some of the lowest performing and that many of the receiving charters are actually district-sponsored, meaning dollars stay in traditional public-school district coffers (just not the coffers of the suburban and rural districts). Groveport Madison school district, for example, whose charter-exiting student population has increased to 1,100 from 400 a few years ago, failed to meet minimum proficiency standards last year in fifteen of the state's twenty-three state assessments administered in grades 3 through 10. Instead of the hand-wringing over lost students and lost dollars, smart districts will try to figure out why they're leaving in the first place.

"Charters reach farther out," by Jennifer Smith Richards, Columbus Dispatch, August 10, 2009