Charter schools underperform

The Dallas Morning News observes:

North Texas didn’t have a single charter school with the state’s top academic rating two years ago. Now there are four.

But those campuses remain outnumbered by low-performing charters: 11 this year across the region, up from eight a couple years ago. The same trend holds for the rest of the state: 51 of Texas’ 317 charters were rated “academically unacceptable” based on 2007 test scores, while only 15 received the top rating “exemplary,” according to data released this month by the Texas Education Agency.

The 16 percent of charters labeled unacceptable compares to 4 percent of traditional public campuses. Charters, which are public schools run by nonprofit groups and exempted from many state regulations, are also less likely to earn the best rating of “exemplary” or second-best of “recognized.”

Charter schools, of course, were supposed to show us all how private industry could produce better schools than those produced with public funds, under public scrutiny, employing certified (unionized) teachers. And, in fairness, some of them have done so. But on average, they clearly do not.

I’m all for experimentation. When we experiment on our children, though, we have to be a bit more careful.


  1. #1 Oran Kelley
    August 14, 2007

    These guys have done some good work on charter schools.

  2. #2 d
    August 14, 2007

    I don’t know what I think of charter schools, but aren’t they traditionally started in inner city areas where schools are bad? Wouldn’t a better comparison be of the charter school and its counterpart public school down the street rather than against the statewide totals?

  3. #3 Dale Austin
    August 14, 2007


    The better approach would be to compare based on the demographic of the student body-specifically, income mean and distribution. You might also want to track performance against dollrs/student. “Down the street” would not be a good enough means of comparison.

  4. #4 Shane P. Brady
    August 14, 2007

    Dale, D:

    Why mess up a chance at a snarky comment with facts and logic? It’s much easier to just dismiss it. TfK loves to just post talking points backed up by headlines and not data.

  5. #5 Nan
    August 15, 2007

    Shane — did you read the article TfK links to? It lays out the problems with charters pretty thoroughly: lack of oversight, inconsistency in quality, and the need for the state to take a closer look at where its money is going. This is a public policy issue — if charter schools are going to be funded with tax dollars, then they’d better live up to their hype. If they’re not performing, then shut them down.

  6. #6 d
    August 15, 2007

    Shane – I think public, charter and private schools all serve different purposes, so I don’t really have an agenda here, so I’d agree, charter schools should be accountable for their results because they receive public money. But can’t the same be said for public schools? Isn’t the main reason charter schools were formed because some public schools were so bad at educating kids? Instead of tossing bombs at each other (and bowing down to the NEA), the discussion should be about results and how best to acheive them. That’s why I disagree with the tenor of the post by tfk, it makes it sound like public schools always get it right and charter schools are a failed experiment, and he bases it on data that doesn’t rightly compare schools. Let’s be honest about the discussion we’re having to make schools the best places to learn for kids, not political statements at the apparent behest of the NEA.

  7. #7 Science Avenger
    August 19, 2007

    I’d like to see a comparison in results between schools with religious backing and those without, assuming that is even allowed.

  8. #8 DuWayne
    August 20, 2007

    We’re sending the five year old to a charter school, precisely because of the quality of our default location public school. Were it not for the fact that we managed to get him into the charter, we would be home schooling him. The default public location under-performs the charter school and is also unsafe. We will have to supplement his education, because the charter isn’t the quality we would prefer either, but we’d be doing that anyways – already do really. I would much prefer to send him to a higher quality public school, I am not a fan of the charter schools as a rule. However, given our circumstances, I’m being a hypocrite, eating the bile and doing what’s best for my child.

    Science Avenger –

    Depends on the religious backing. I don’t know if any charters are allowed as religious schools, but I know a lot of Catholic schools do really well, especially Jesuit ones. However, pentacostal fundamentalist schools, do abysmally in, go figure, the sciences. They are not necessarily all that bad overall, but nearly all of them are pretty strictly creationist, which spills over to other areas in weird ways. (I spent a few years in one of the latter)

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