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Published: Wednesday, 11/23/2005

Charters found to have more minorities

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Charter schools nationwide serve a larger percentage of minority and low-income students than do traditional public schools, according to a study released yesterday by the University of Washington.

The researchers noted that their findings were partly because charters schools remain a predominantly urban phenomenon. The study also found that a key factor to the success of charter schools is a strong authorizing agency.

The study found that 59 percent of Ohio charter school students are minorities, compared to 50 percent minority enrollment in traditional public schools in communities where charter schools are located.

The leaders of Ohio's two largest charter school sponsors agreed with the findings.

"The one thing we see that most of our students have in common is that the families feel some sense of disenfranchisement from the traditional school systems," said Allison Perz, executive director of the Toledo-based Ohio Council of Community Schools. The agency sponsors 46 schools statewide.

Since the first 15 charter schools opened in Ohio in 1998, the number has grown to 250 statewide, enrolling 65,000 students.

"I agree that the [sponsor], just as district administrators, plays a very pivotal role in charter school success," Ms. Perz said.

Both the Ohio Council of Community Schools and the Lucas County Educational Service Center, which sponsors 103 charter schools statewide, have committed to holding their schools more accountable.

Last month, the service center governing board closed the oldest and largest charter school in Cleveland because of a long list of problems there, including missing taxpayer money and low test scores.

Of the Ohio charter schools that received achievement rankings last year, most were ranked in the bottom two categories of the state's five-tier rating system for academic performance.

Frank Stoy, a regional consultant for the service center, said all charter schools in Ohio will face more scrutiny.

"The most important thing in this study is that one of the driving forces behind charter schools is the parent demand for new options for groups of students who have been less well served," Mr. Stoy said. "People don't start these schools because they are fun - it's market-driven."



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