Yesterday’s St. Louis Post Dispatch had a front page article on the performance of the city’s charter schools relative to its public schools. And guess what? There’s not much difference. Some charter schools do better, lots do worse:
The numbers continue to show that charter schools – promoted as an alternative to the struggling St. Louis Public Schools – have yet to consistently offer superior results for the nearly 10,000 children who attend them. At the lowest-performing charter schools, pupils are six times less likely to pass exams than their peers at the city’s traditional public schools.
The degree to which their schools are performing varies widely. In fact, a 61 percentage-point difference exists between the best- and the worst-performing charter schools in reading, and 52 percentage points in math.
Who would have suspected that loosening the rules and regulations that govern public education and lessening accountability – not to mention, in some cases, adding the profit incentive to the mix – might not necessarily be the way to improve the education we are offering our children in St. Louis. In fact, if one considers those charters that are succeeding, it seems that what they are offering could easily be replicated in the traditional public school – as long as resources are adequate to do so. According to a spokesperson for St. Louis Charter School, where students’ performance on standardized tests have regularly improved, “the steady gains show that reading specialists, tutoring and individualized instruction are paying off.”
Let’s see – reading specialists, tutoring and individualized instruction – actually addressing the specific needs of individual students. Who’d have guessed that this is what it takes? Perhaps you might be tempted to ask why public schools can’t provide the same services? Do you think it might have something to do with resources – like the millions of dollars redirected from public to charter schools?