The charter school report

Bad news for charter schools: their students seem to underperform comparable students in regular public schools. That’s not what I wanted to hear. That’s not what the Bush Administration wanted to hear. I’m telling you about it. They tried to bury the information.

I’m pretty much a fan of charter schools. (Anyone living under the tyranny of the Los Angeles Mummified School District would just about have to be. Would you believe that Los Angeles doesn’t have a single top-ranked high school? Not one, for a city of 3.5 million people, some of them very prosperous brain-workers?)

So I can’t say I’m happy to read a report that charter-school students tend to do worse than students in regular public schools. And it’s not hard to come up with some explanations that aren’t too devastating: perhaps the kids who go to charter schools are the ones who weren’t doing well where they were. Perhaps the charter schools, not as burdened as others by the No Child Left Behind nonsense, have decided not to teach to the tests, and their kids are actually learning more than others even if their multiple-guess scores are lower.

Still, as Checker Finn says, the report on its face is a body blow to the charter movement. And I can understand that friends of that movement, including the Bush Administration, might want to downplay the report.

But that’s no excuse for the Department of Education trying to bury the results by posting them on its website without so much as a press advisory.

Anyone who believes that this was an oversight should contact me urgently about a high-return investment in urban transportation infrastructure.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: