Recently, The Economist posted two articles reporting on Charter schools. While they admit that there is difficulty with determining the success of Charters due to the lack of credible research on the subject, they make an interesting case on what they view are the pros and cons based on the metrics that are available. They argue that the states that are seeing success and are doing it right have correct laws in place governing Charters. They highlight that the key elements to Charters is that they are privately run while being publicly funded, and that because of the privatization they often bypass the teacher’s unions which makes it easier to provide oversight and monitoring and to quickly address failing schools. Quicker at least than their traditional public school counterparts.They contend:
…[T]he virtue of experiments is that you can learn from them; and it is now becoming clear how and where charter schools work best. Poor pupils, those in urban environments and English-language learners fare better in charters. In states that monitor them carefully and close down failing schools quickly, they work best. And one great advantage is that partly because most are free of union control, they can be closed down more easily if they are failing.
This assertion is based on research from institutions like Mathematica, an independent policy group, a national “meta-analysis” of research, done last year for the Centre on Reinventing Public Education in Seattle, and another recent study in Massachusetts for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which all concluded that in targeted areas with targeted students Charters are effective.
Another benefit to Charters that the article points out, is that Charters raise the bar and provide competition to their traditional public school counterparts. Thus, this may result in raising the level of performance from these schools in the same area. They quote Margaret Raymond, the Director of the Credo Institute (a leading researcher of Charters), saying:
Ms Raymond says traditional public schools no longer have the excuse that they cannot be blamed for the poor performance of children because of their background; so competition from charters may improve standards in non-charters, too.
The articles concludes with these thoughts:
It is pretty clear now that giving schools independence—so long as it is done in the right way, with the right monitoring, regulation and safeguards from the state—works. Yet it remains politically difficult to implement. That is why it needs a strong push from national governments. Britain is giving school independence the shove it needs. In America, artificial limits on the number of charter schools must be ended, and they must get the same levels of funding as other schools.[...]The least this generation can do for its children is to try its best to improve its state schools. Giving them more independence can do that at no extra cost. Let there be more of it.