The Education Solution: Charter Schools are Not the Magic Bullet

Despite the hue and cry for more local control to make establishing charter schools easier, there is also the admonition that they are not the solution to the education crisis.  The idea of allowing schools to be partially exempt from school board control so they can be innovative in improving instruction and student achievement outcomes is getting a lot of coin these days.  But, a study by Stanford University has found that charter schools are not better overall than traditional schools.

Based on the CREDO study, Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States

  According to Wikipedia the research showed  that 17% of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools; 46% showed no difference from public schools; and 37% were significantly worse than their traditional public school counterparts.  This based 70 percent of demographically matched charter schools in the United States.

Still, there are those who want more charter schools, and more magnate schools. Former Muscogee County School District board member Fife Whiteside has this to say about it:

Fife Whiteside

  “The school district has only two dedicated magnets, where all the children are there by choice, of the sort described in Waiting. [He is referring to the documentary Waiting for Superman.] These are Columbus High and Britt David. Both are extraordinarily successful and have traditionally had twice, or more, as many applications as seats. When I was on the school board I periodically reviewed school costs for these schools and they were never more expensive than others.

“Why not have more such schools, particularly a dedicated magnet middle school? The reason most often articulated, when I asked that question, was that it would be unfair to other schools, to take away the “other school’s good students.” The fear was that taking away the good students would hurt test scores in the other schools and make them look bad. I thought the parents owned the child not the school. The school is the resource for the benefit of the child and not the child the resource for the benefit of the school. The question should be what is best for the child, not for the staff of the school.

“Three other examples come to mind as well.

“The school district, with one exception, has always resisted charter school applications, sometimes at great expense. The publically articulated reason was that the charter proponents could not be trusted, had bad ideas, would fail, etc. Hard to understand in view of the performance in some of our regular schools. But the real reason is that the charter schools would pull students out of regular schools and pull away the state FTE earned money, I believe over $5000 per child, which is a loss to the school district. It is about keeping money to protect positions and salaries.”

Magnate and charter schools also bring up in the issue of two-track schools, an upper track for the better performing students and a lower track for the rest. Is that a good idea? Is it fair? We’ll look at that in a future Education Solution report.


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2 Responses to “The Education Solution: Charter Schools are Not the Magic Bullet”

  1. Julie Bond Says:

    I went to a grammer school in England as a middle and High schooler.( It was similar to the magnet school idea that they then abolished in many areas later in the late 70’s saying it wasnt fair on the other schools.)

    They made us wear a uniform that we didnt like but it added to the ‘more is expected of you’ idea and made you feel more important, adding to your worth. Others may of viewed it as added pressure.

    All to say, I am not sure how much better I did but the name helped me get on in expectation of further education. There are many pro’s and cons to all this but making sure that good educational advancement is equally made available to all schools I would think is paramount. It should be to pull the other schools up to a higher standard not lower others to match the rest?

  2. John Van Doorn Says:

    Dick et al., This is an excellent series that should enjoy–indeed spark–a serious community-wide re-evaluation of our education system. I recently attended a showing of “Waiting for Superman” at Troy University-P.C. and I believe it should be seen by every citizen, including Mr. McKoon, before we even begin to have a discussion of public education. The movie essentially demonstrates how we’re playing Russian roulette with our children’s education when we over-rely on charter/magnet schools as a “solution” to the education problems (a point that Mr. Whiteside seems to have ignored).
    The bottom line is really very simple: for each and EVERY school, find and empower great teachers who know and love their subject, use innovative techniques, and minimize the overhead and paperwork often required by education administrators. Turning to magnets and charters is just an admission that we don’t have the will/ability to invest the necessary resources in education, so we’ll have a few “show” schools that makes us feel better about the situation. Indeed, “returning” to “local control” as Mr. McKoon urges would make a tough situation worse (in most cases) because poorer communities have even less ability to support good teachers than do wealthier districts. Columbus is relatively well off in this regard, but much of the rest of Georgia is not. What we need is a serious re-commitment to public education as the fountain of all future prosperity, and resources to match that commitment. JVD

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