Charter schools can be a godsend to kids in failing public school systems. They’ve proven time and again that they can take students and give them a solid education, bringing them at least up to grade level in most subjects while their peers in traditional neighborhood schools fall further and further behind.
But are they really playing on a level field? An interesting NYT article looks at the ways charter schools may cherry pick their students to inflate their success rates. Some families contend that their kids have been pushed out of charter schools because they didn’t fit in or had special needs.
The article focuses in particular on New York’s Success schools, which operate in Harlem and the Bronx. The school defends themselves against charges of cherry picking, saying they try to help every student excel. For some kids, that means excelling at a different school.
Sure. While they may have noble ambitions, it’s hard to argue with the numbers the NYT digs up:
On the other hand, every traditional public school that is housed with a Success charter has more special-education children as well as students for whom English is the second language, according to numbers posted on city and state Web sites. At Success 3, the school Matthew attended, 10 percent are in special education and 2 percent are English language learners, according to the publicly available data; Mosaic Prep Academy, a district school that shares its building, has 23 percent in special education and 13 percent learning English as a second language.
The Success rep contacted for the article does dispute the numbers, saying the state is wrong and 7.6 percent of their students are working with limited English. Even if that’s right, it’s clear that the charter schools are not handling the kids in need of the most help. They only work with special needs students who can be placed in mainstream classrooms, not those who require what the article describes as a more “restrictive environment”.
Working with only a higher functioning student population may not account for all the gap between a charter school’s performance and that of the neighborhood school. But it certainly gives the charter schools a boost on their test scores.
Have your kids attended a charter school? Do you think charter schools are models for education, or a drain on public school resources?