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Published: Sunday, 12/16/2012

Charter schools are making the grade

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Your Dec. 8 editorial “Making the grade” claims that the growth of charter schools may be over, based on statistics about the number of educational choice scholarships. But you conflate two different forms of educational choice in Ohio: vouchers, which are for private schools and require choice scholarships, and charter schools.

Students don’t need a scholarship to attend a charter school, because charter schools do not charge tuition. The number of students using educational scholarships has no direct impact on the number of students who attend charter schools.

In fact, Ohio’s charter enrollment is growing. Ohio ranks fifth nationally in the number of students attending charter schools, with more than 110,000 students attending charters, compared to 80,000 in 2007.

It is not true, as you claim, that charter students’ “overall performance is no better than their counterparts in traditional schools.” Ohio charter schools must locate in challenged school districts. “Counterparts” for charters are not every other district in Ohio, but the challenged districts.

Last year, 52 percent of Toledo charter schools serving a general population — not special-needs or dropout students recovery — were rated effective or excellent, compared to 24 percent of Toledo’s public schools. Toledo charters also outperformed the district in value-added gains: 83 percent of Toledo charters met or exceeded one year of growth, compared to 51 percent of district schools.

Charter schools are not a panacea. They are an integral part of education reform, meant to give children trapped in low-performing districts with better options.

Some charter schools do not deliver on their promise to provide a better education, but unlike public schools, poor-performing charters are shut down.

We appreciate The Blade’s efforts to examine the movement and push for higher quality. Getting the facts straight is a good place to begin before assessing the performance of charter schools.

WILLIAM SIMS

President Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Columbus



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