Monday, May 3, 2010

No Magic

Stop me if you've heard this before, but there's some evidence out there that charters are not all wonderful schools. Some are very good, but more are ... less so. It's just that you wouldn't really know that from reading the New York papers where they take a Wobegon view of charters: the principals are smart, the teachers are dedicated, and all the children score above average on their yearly high-stakes tests.

However, a barrier fell yesterday when the New York Times ran a story headlined: Despite Push, Success at Charter Schools is Mixed. I had to check a few times to make sure I wasn't hallucinating that one.

The article itself is not especially brilliant, but it's pretty good. The reporter visits different charter schools around the country and writes about what's going on at a successful one and at an less successful one. Because, remember, there are differences.

The moral of the story, at least to those paying attention, is that charter schools are not magic. There's nothing about a charter in itself that makes it a great school. Charters can be great. Just like traditional public schools can be great. Great schools are great schools. The labels matter much less than what's actually going on in the classroom.

The Times yesterday seemed to take a step toward acknowledging that. Now let's see if their editorial writers actually read their own paper.

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