Cynthia Leonor Garza
Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) today released a new report, "Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States."
WASHINGTON—The CREDO report released today provides a significant national snapshot of how charter schools are faring, revealing that while in a few cases charter schools do a good job, in most cases they perform no better and are frequently worse than traditional public schools. The American Federation of Teachers has long supported the role that charter schools play as laboratories for innovation. However, the inconsistencies in the quality of charter schools should give pause to those who want to lift charter caps, particularly when they are not matched with calls for legislatures to increase accountability.
"Multiple Choice" reinforces the AFT's position that charter schools are not the panacea they often are made out to be, and that our national focus must continue to include discussion of how to support and improve our regular public schools, where the majority of America's students attend.
The report shows that of the states doing the worst-Texas, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Minnesota and New Mexico-the first four have 300 or more charter schools and rank only below California in the total number of charters. The states with charter schools outperforming regular public schools have fewer charter schools: Arkansas, Illinois (Chicago), Missouri and Louisiana have less than 100 charters each, and Colorado has 140 charters. This pattern strongly suggests that students are not well-served by state or federal policies that encourage unchecked charter proliferation without a rigorous entry process, adequate oversight or speedy closure policies. This conclusion calls into question the report's finding that caps on charter growth result in schools that "realize significantly lower academic growth."
The goal for all stakeholders in public education should be to ensure that all children have excellent schools, and quality must trump quantity where charter schools are concerned. We can do this by encouraging high standards, giving students a rich and challenging curriculum, and providing teachers with the resources, tools and support they need to do their jobs well.