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Obama’s Race to the Top competition won’t fix public schools

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Ms. Raymond concluded that “this study reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their traditional public school counterparts.” In fact, according to the data, regular public school students have almost always out performed charter schools. In 2007, for example, charter students scored the same as their peers in regular public schools in eighth-grade reading. This led Education Week to report that “The latest data do not bolster the early hopes of charter advocates that the sector as a whole would significantly outperform regular public schools.”

Because the Raymond study is the largest study of charter schools so far, it offers hard data to help taxpayers judge the merits of expanding the movement. For states that have caps on the number of charter schools allowed, the Raymond study could be a decisive factor, since charter schools are publicly funded but free of many state regulations.

To be sure, there are aberrations. One such anomaly was the result of a study by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University that came on the heels of the Raymond investigation. Ms. Hoxby found that disadvantaged students who attended charter schools in New York City for nine years closed the socioeconomic gap between the affluent suburb of Scarsdale and the impoverished section of New York City – what she termed the “Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap.” But Hoxby did not say how many students completed the nine years in a charter school. This omission raised eyebrows because New York City had only about a dozen small charter schools in 2000 when the study began.

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