Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quality, Not Governance

Despite the hype surrounding charter schools and voucher programs (aka the saviors of education) the data just doesn't seem to be there.

Take charter schools. A report out of Stanford University found that over 80% of charter schools did no better or worse than public schools. In fact, while 17% of charter schools did significantly better than traditional public schools, 37% performed significantly worse. In other words, for every charter school success story, there are two charter school failure stories, not that the media ever sees fit to mention them. (Don't worry KIPPsters, I'm sure you're in the good 17%.) The real story, though, is that most charter schools perform at an equivalent level to the traditional public schools from which they draw their students. No better, no worse.

Same story with vouchers. Research out of Florida found that students who entered the Florida voucher program didn't do any better in school than students who were eligible for the vouchers but opted not to participate. It's apparently cheaper to do it via the voucher program, but not more effective.

So what's the bottom line here? What this data boils down to is that good schools are good schools and bad schools are bad schools and it doesn't really seem to matter what system of governance you have in place for the schools. Charter and private schools via vouchers don't lead students to magically outperform public schools. Rather than rant and rave about how we need to create more charter schools or give more private school vouchers because they're the silver educational bullet, let's instead look at what makes good schools good. Whether we find examples of good schooling in private, public, or charter schools let's find the good parts and reproduce it as best we can. It's not charter schools that make the difference or private schools. It's good schools. And those can come from anywhere.

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