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Is School Choice So Grand? - Thursday, November 1, 2007
Currently Louisiana hears much about Charter schools. New Orleans, in the wake of Katrina, has seen creation of several different types of Charter Schools. They have been created by the New Orleans Public School Board and by the State Recovery School District.

Recently those founded under the auspices of the NOPSB were found not to be in compliance with charter rules.

Advocates boast that the freedom granted to charters provides academic options that lead to student achievement.

Evidence of improved student performance is hard to locate.

A recent Ohio Department of Education study revealed that traditional public school students have an 80% chance of receiving an effective or excellent education, compared to just a 9% chance for a child enrolled in an Ohio charter school. Over 77,000 students are enrolled in Ohio charter schools. A majority (57%) are in academic watch or academic emergency. This comes in the 10th year of charter operation in the state.

Ohio charter school performance has led the League of Women Voters of Ohio to conclude that “recent news reports about charter schools that are unauditable show that there is a need for legislative changes in the charter school laws.” Per-pupil state funding paid to traditional public schools is now less than half the amount that is paid to charter schools ($3,394 vs. $6,902 in 2007).

Other studies have cast a shadow over claims of high performance of charter schools.

Nearly 40 percent of newer charter school teachers flee for other jobs, according to a startling new study funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The study, “Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools by Gary Miron and Brooks Applegate of the Western Michigan University Evaluation Center, is based on the authors' analyses of data collected in surveys of charter school employees from around the country conducted from 1997 to 2006.

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released in December 2004 found that fourth-grade charter school students do no better than their public school counterparts on math and reading assessments, and in some cases score lower.
In five case study states, charter schools are less likely to meet state performance standards than traditional public schools….U.S. Department of Education-Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program: Final Report.

In a study that followed North Carolina students for several years, professors Robert Bifulco and Helen Ladd found that students in charter schools actually made considerably smaller achievement gains in charter schools than they would have in traditional public schools.
A University of Arizona study of Arizona, California, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas, charter schools concludes “…that evidence exists for the case that the charter school movement is largely a failed reform.”
A different study of the Arizona charters, The Morrison Institute’s analysis, concluded that students in charter schools for two years have increased in achievement (in reading, language and mathematics) at approximately similar levels as students at regular public schools….The analysis also revealed that by middle school, students who attended charter schools for one year or more began to lag behind their regular public school age-mates. By high schools, this effect was even more dramatic, with charter school students often 10 to 15 points behind regular public school students.
The RAND Institute study of California charter schools revealed: “Regarding student achievement, results are mixed. Students in charter schools generally have comparable or slightly lower test scores than students in conventional public schools, but there is variation among the types of charter schools.”
In light of such performance, one might question the validity of an assumption that by creating charter schools we might expect significant improvement in student performance.
At the very least, we might demand that all choice programs be subject to equal student assessment and administrative audit requirements made of traditional public schools.
Why not ask candidates for BESE or the Louisiana Legislature for such assurances?


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