Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beware simple comparisons couched in praise of charters

Letter at The State today offers how complicated the charter advocacy situation is for public schools.

Follow the discussion and see my comment posted there:

Any education success at our schools--regardless of kind (public, private, charter)--deserves praise and celebration. But we must be careful when that praise slips into comparisons that imply policy should reflect some TYPE of schooling as superior to another.

Charter spending often includes hidden differences that we tend to ignore about public schools--which have complex mandates concerning what each public school MUST do.

Spartanburg Charter has a poverty index of about 56 placing it in the TOP 17% of elementary schools in SC--comparable to Blythe Academy in Greenville and Jesse Boyd in Spartanburg, both with better report card ratings but with a more diverse population of students to educate (ELL, notably). Also Spartanburg Charter has a 9-1 student-teacher ratio, compared to 19-1 for Blythe and Jesse Boyd--suggesting many aspects of the setting may be impacting the outcomes, not just raw dollars spent.



Spartanburg Charter exposes a common problem with comparing charters to public schools--populations of students served, including ELL and special needs students.

The BULK of increased education spending in public schools over the past half century can be traced to special needs and ELL costs, which public schools MUST address and charter schools often don't.

We can applaud Spartanburg Charter without suggesting an incomplete and misleading conclusion that the school does more with less money (this claim about private schools remains, but is untrue as well).

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