Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Charter Schools Perform Worse Than Traditional Public Schools

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The myth has been shattered: a new study shows charter schools perform worse than traditional public schools. In only 17 percent of charter schools do students surpass their demographically matched regular school peers in math and reading. More than twice that many charters rate worse than traditional classrooms, while close to half are about equal. Despite the data, the Obama administration "continues to demand that 5,000 schools be shut down, and their teachers fired" - a disproportionate share of them Black.   Their "position is based on ideology, not empirical data."

Charter Schools Perform Worse Than Traditional Public Schools

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

This study shows that we’ve got a 2-to-1 margin of bad charters to good charters.”

A new study out of Stanford University is shattering the myth of charter school superiority. According to Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, students at only 17 percent of charter schools do better on math and reading tests than their demographic peers in regular public schools. Thirty-seven percent do worse, while 46 percent of charter school kids, almost half, perform at approximately the same level as their traditional public school counterparts.

The author of the report concludes: “This study shows that we’ve got a 2-to-1 margin of bad charters to good charters.” The results are especially significant, given that charter schools have built-in advantages – starting with parents that are engaged enough in their children’s education to put them there, in the first place. Yet the actual outcomes, in most cases, fail to live up to the hype.

President Obama and his administration are ideologically committed to charter schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was a cheerleader for charters when he ran the Chicago school system, is threatening to withhold federal education money from the 10 states that don’t yet have charter schools and the 26 other states that put limits on enrollment in charters. Such raw coercion is unconscionable, especially given the results of the Stanford study.

The Obama administration position is based on ideology, not empirical data.”

Duncan responded to the study by urging charter school forces to pay more attention to quality. But he continues to demand that 5,000 schools be shut down, their teachers fired, and a quarter million new teachers hired. The Obama administration position is based on ideology, not empirical data, and would lead to a forced proliferation of charter schools in districts eager to hold on to federal dollars. If the Stanford study is any guide, half the new charters will be no better than the traditional schools, and most of the rest will be worse.

Unionized teachers are blamed for all the ills of urban education; it’s not a reasoned argument, but a matter of faith – and political prejudice. Charter schools are not private, but they are the privatizers’ foot in the door, a wedge issue to demonize unions in the Black community – even in those cities where many if not most public school teachers are Black. In Chicago, as Bruce Dixon reported in last week’s issue of Black Agenda Report, the proportion of Black teachers has dropped from 39 to 31 percent since 2002, because of school closings. In New Orleans, most of the school system has been replaced with charter schools, along with a disproportionate share of Black teachers, to the cheers of the Obama administration. It’s the same story all across the country.

Obama’s people use the same language as the Bush regime did in attacking public education. Charter schools, they say, are key to educational “reform,” and provide “competition” for traditional schools. But that’s utter nonsense if the educational outcomes are no better, and in many cases worse, than in the regular public schools. What we are then left with as the only remaining rationale for charter schools, is to break the unions and move closer to privatization of public education.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



Direct download: 20090624_gf_charter_schools.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:59am EDT