Internet Traffic Jam Over Charter Schools

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There was a lot of conversation this week over the Internet and in news articles about the latest study on charter schools. A new study released this week by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) was sharply critical of charter schools, which did not sit well with supporters of charter schools. No matter how you feel about charter schools, the study was on the shabby side, making claims about the impact of charter schools on student achievement without using any measures of achievement. It tended to focus on other things. For example, it found that charter schools in California tend to be more racially isolated than traditional public schools and class sizes tend to be larger.

The study applies the same old tiresome, clearly spurious connection between teacher quality and teacher certification; it claims that since 48% of the teachers in the average charter school are uncertified as opposed to 9% in the average public school, the students at charter schools are being short-changed. One can only imagine the reaction of the nation's most elite private schools, which employ the fewest certified teachers of any kind of school, if someone tried to make certification the only measure of their teacher quality.

Defenders of charter schools didn't waste a second responding. The Charter Schools Development Center points out in its own report that California Charter Schools that have been open for at least five years score higher on California's Academic Performance Index than California's other public schools (708 vs. 689). The Center for Education Reform points out that in Michigan, despite serving one-and-a-half times as many disadvantaged students as traditional public schools, 75% of charter schools increased their standardized test scores, demonstrating student achievement.