The downside of charter schools

The media are enchanted by charter schools, reporting only their successes compared with traditional public schools. But there is another side of the story that parents need to keep in mind before enrolling their children (“Charter Schools Have Failed (And We Need to Stop Funding Them),” The Progressive, Aug 20, 2020).

More than one in four charter schools close after just five years in operation, according to the Network for Public Education.  After ten years, 40 percent are shuttered.  When charter schools close, what happens to their students?  When they enroll in traditional public schools, which by law must accept them at any time in the school year, they find themselves disengaged.  Their grades suffer and they feel disoriented.

I mention all of the above because I think it’s time for a more balanced picture of charter schools to be presented to taxpayers.  Until now, all they have heard is positive news.  I support parental choice, but greater transparency is necessary if parents are to make the right decision.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “The downside of charter schools”

  1. I strongly oppose “parent choice” but recognize that, so long as the inner-city neighborhood public schools refuse to track students, it is better to allow the children of the concerned/functional parents to escape the untracked chaotic inner-city neighborhood public schools via charters or magnets than to condemn all the inner-city students to untracked chaotic inner-city neighborhood public schools.

    It is infuriating that the inner-city public school systems refuse to reinstate tracking. The neighborhood public schools usually have better teachers, curriculum, facilities, and support services than the charters while the charters have the better students. If the inner-city public schools systems reinstated tracking, then the concerned/functional inner-city parents could send their relatively well-behaved, relatively academically-oriented kids to the neighborhood public schools where the kids would have the better teachers, curriculum, facilities and support services as well as being in non-chaotic classes where the other kids were also relatively well-behaved and relatively academically oriented.

    It’s likely that the students who ended up in the “lower” track classes would also benefit from reinstating tracking. At a minimum, tracking would enable the teachers in those lower track classes to teach full-time at the less-advanced level that their students required rather than teaching part-time at the less-advanced level and part-time at the more-advanced level. Also, if the school system actually cared about improving outcomes for the lower-track students, the school system could more efficiently provide additional support appropriate for the lower-track students — i.e., smaller classes, second adult (not necessarily a teacher) in the room, more teacher aides, different behavior standards, more social services for the lower track classes.


  2. Labor Lawyer: Tracking is seen today as elitist. Democratization, rather than differentiation, is what matters to reformers. I believe in tracking as long as it allows students mobility once they show mastery of material. Teaching would be much more effective if we had tracking.


    1. “Democratization” is far too kind to the elected officials who refuse to reinstate tracking. I’d say “political cowardice” — the elected officials fear blowback from parents/media who might accuse the elected officials of being racist. What’s particularly infuriating is that, in most inner-city school systems, there are so few white students that tracking would not result in a significant increase in racial segregation in the classrooms — so, the fear of being labelled “racist” is largely unfounded.


  3. Labor Lawyer: Too many reformers refuse to get real about individual abilities. They live in a dream world where everyone can perform equally. Other countries begin differentiation in education early on – perhaps too early, but at least they do so. Only in the US do we believe in equal outcomes.


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