|Putting Children First||
Editorial: DailyBreeze.com, November 18, 2008
Charters prove their worth
Every once in a while, someone produces a study demonstrating something we already knew, and the response is telling: Those who are firmly grounded in reality yawn at the restatement of the obvious. And those who are so blinded by ideology or self-interest that they can't bear to face certain inconvenient truths howl in outrage.
So when the California Charter Schools Association produced a study last week showing the obvious - that charters provide a ray of hope to families trapped in some of the state's worst traditional public schools - the response was predictably divided: The families who send their children to charters weren't one bit surprised. And the defenders of the educational status quo sneered.
"An analysis by an organization analyzing itself is suspect," complained A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has long despised charters because they take students - and the money that follows them - away from the failing schools that union members staff.
While Duffy is right that, as a general rule, self-evaluations aren't usually too instructive, he's wrong in this case, as the CCSA study is based on objective, third-party data that anyone can access for themselves.
According to the results from the 2007-08 Academic Performance Index, a statewide assessment, 12 of the 15 most rapidly improving public schools that primarily serve poor students are charters. These are schools where more than 70percent of the student body receives free or reduced-cost meals.
Before charters came along, students at these schools had no alternative. But now, thanks to the growth of the independent public-school movement, parents can - and do - have choices for their children other than mediocre neighborhood schools.
Naturally, Duffy has an explanation for this. "If public schools could cherry-pick students and kick out those with behavior problems the way charters do, then public schools' test scores would be as high as charter schools," he says.
But charter schools - which are public schools, as they are free and open to all - work with the same base of students as traditional public schools. And the claim that traditional public schools can't get rid of perpetually out-of-control students who ruin the educational experience for everyone else only proves the point that Duffy is trying to refute, namely that charters provide a healthier learning environment.
Of course, who is Duffy to make the case that so many traditional public schools aren't really that bad? Whatever happened to "an analysis by an organization analyzing itself is suspect"?
Fortunately, parents don't need to take UTLA's self-evaluations - or CCSA's, for that matter - at face value. They can see for themselves where their children thrive, and where they flail.
The fact that ever-more Los Angeles parents are choosing charters over traditional public schools tells us far more about educational progress than any study ever could.
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