"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Charter Magic Bullet Another Dead Round

From the Times Leader:
Associated Press

A decade after the state allowed the creation of charter schools, achievement at most lags behind that of schools in their home districts, according to a newspaper study.

Pennsylvania charter school students on average are not performing as well on standardized tests as their public school peers, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Sunday. In addition, average scores of charter students fell below the averages in the students' home districts, the paper said.

The state in 1996 authorized the creation of charter schools, and there are now 120 such schools serving 60,000 students. School districts are required to pay for the education of charter school students living within their borders, but the state reimburses districts for only part of the cost.

The Tribune-Review said 49 percent of charter school students scored at the proficient level or higher in reading and nearly 48 percent did so in math. Averages in the state's public schools were 68 percent for reading and 70 percent for math.

Forty-two charter schools reported scores worse than their home districts in reading and math; another 19 did worse on one test and about the same on the other, the paper said. Two dozen schools did better on both tests and eight did better on at least one test, while 12 schools did about the same as their home districts on both tests.

"Evidence around the country demonstrates that those who considered charter schools a magic bullet were wrong," said Ron Cowell, president of the Harrisburg-based public policy group, Education Policy and and Leadership Center.

Gary Miron of The Evaluation Center of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo has studied charter schools in eight states and says that Pennsylvania's rank in the middle in terms of performance.

Some of the problems in Pennsylvania, he said, include unstable school leadership, districts unwilling to sponsor charter schools, lack of oversight and poorly qualified teachers.

"The reality is, if your kid isn't performing, if you take him out of a regular school and put him in a charter school, he doesn't automatically become brilliant," said state Rep. James Roebuck, D-Philadelphia, who chairs the House Education Committee.

At Propel Charter School-Homestead, students scored 24 percentage points lower in reading and 29 points lower in math than host district Steel Valley's students. But principal George Fitch Jr. said many arrive one to three grades below the appropriate level. He said the students have improved since enrolling. . . .

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