Depending on who you read or listen to, charter schools are either a striking success or a “failed and damaging experiment” — or even just “fads.”
Such conflicting opinions have led to bitter controversies that have raged for years. But my new book, “Charter Schools and Their Enemies,” features hard facts about educational outcomes in more than a hundred individually identified New York City schools.
These schools are listed by name so that parents, officials and anyone interested in the education of children can make their own comparisons.
What all these particular schools have in common is that charter-school students and traditional public-school students are educated in the same buildings and take the same tests in mathematics and English every year. The results of these tests are listed for each of these schools, along with information on their students’ backgrounds.
Here are some basic facts:
In these buildings, 14 percent of traditional public-school classes had a majority of their students achieve a level defined as “proficient” in English for their grade level by the New York State Education Department.
Meanwhile, 65 percent of charter-school classes in those same buildings had a majority of their students achieve the “proficient“ level on the same test. That’s nearly a five-to-one disparity.
On the mathematics test, just 10 percent of the classes in these traditional public schools had a majority of their students achieve a “proficient” level. But 68 percent of charter-school classes in the same buildings had a majority of their students achieve a “proficient” level. That’s nearly a seven-to-one disparity.
No wonder most critics of charter schools, and defenders of traditional public schools, want to argue on the basis of rhetoric.
They don’t want to argue on the basis of facts about test results.
One common example of misleading rhetoric is an often-repeated statement that — nationwide — charter schools “as a whole“ do not perform any better than traditional public schools “as a whole.“