Charter schools’ built-in advantage

It’s always heartening to read that some charter schools manage to post remarkable results with disadvantaged students that traditional public schools have failed (“Entire Bronx Success Academy class aces statewide math exam,” New York Post, Jul. 2).  I have reference now to Success Academy Bronx 2 in the New York City system, where 99 percent of eighth-graders passed the New York State Algebra I Regents exam.

What makes the achievement so remarkable is that 90 percent of them qualify for a free lunch.  If poverty were indeed the cause of failing schools, then how to explain why the school was able to post such impressive results?  Part of the credit, of course, goes to their teachers.  But I submit that the No. 1 factor is that the students who were in the school are there because their parents are involved enough in their education to have applied for admission in the first place.

Compare that with the situation at traditional public schools.  All students who show up at the front door must by law be admitted, regardless of their ability or motivation.  All it takes is one miscreant to disrupt the learning of other students.  In other words, students have the right to be enrolled but not the responsibility to learn.  Teachers cannot perform miracles, no matter how competent they are in their subject.

If traditional public schools were permitted to operate like charter schools, there would be virtually no difference in outcomes.  Too bad they can’t.

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