I have been following the Charter School movement for a number of years. Personally, I believe that research evidence supports my belief that Charter Schools are not a good approach to improving our educational systems (Ravitch, 6/22/2018, link).

According to current data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are about three million public school students now enrolled in Charter Schools in the United States, or about six-percent of total public school enrollment. The NCES website offers this definition of Charter Schools (NCES, 2019, link):

A public charter school is a publicly funded school that is typically governed by a group or organization under a legislative contract—a charter—with the state, the district, or another entity. The charter exempts the school from certain state or local rules and regulations. In return for flexibility and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards outlined in its charter. A school’s charter is reviewed periodically by the entity that granted it, and can be revoked if guidelines on curriculum and management are not followed or if the accountability standards are not met. Between school years 2000–01 and 2016–17, the percentage of all public schools in the United States (defined in this indicator as the 50 states and the District of Columbia) that were charter schools increased from 2 to 7 percent, and the total number of charter schools increased from approximately 2,000 to 7,000.

In brief summary, the Charter Schools have not lived up to their hype, and on average they have not performed as well as their founders and promoters had expected. A recent report on the Charter Schools in Texas provides evidence of this assertion (Ravitch, 9/5/2019, link):

The Texas Education Agency ("TEA") has released its 2019 Academic Accountability Ratings for taxpayer funded schools. In this regard, ratings were assigned to both locally governed, community-based school districts and State approved, privately-operated charters that comprise the State's "dual education" system (see "TXSchools.gov"). In total, 1,089 taxpayer funded entities received ratings from TEA: 1,020 community-based school districts and 169 State approved, privately-operated charters ("charters").

Rating Summary: According to the State's ratings, an impressive 86.2% of community-base school districts received an "A" or "B" rating and only 2.6% of community-based school districts were assigned a "D" or "F" rating. In other words, 97.4% of the 1,020 community-based school districts were awarded the "good housekeeping seal of approval" by the State.

In comparison, the percentage of charters receiving an "A" or "B" rating was significantly lower at 58.6%, which is 27.6 percentage points lower than the percentage of community-based school districts with "A" or "B" ratings. The differences do not stop there. The percentage of charters receiving a rating of "C" or below was 41.4%, while the percentage of community-based school districts rated "C" or below was only 13.8%. In addition, an alarming 17.7% of State approved charters received a "D" or "F" rating. In other words, almost 1 of every 5 charters was deemed "low performing" by the State.

What You Can Do

Many people are unhappy with the quality of the U.S. public school system. Some of these (including quite a few big spenders) have promoted and strongly supported the Charter School movement.

My recent Google search of the term Charter School produced 394 million results. My Google search of the term Research: Charter School produced 192 million results. If the topic interests you, I suggest you do your own search and read some of the literature. Look for solid evidence (research-based reports) rather than hype. Develop your personal beliefs from an analysis of the research. Then share what you have learned with others.

References and Resources

NCES (May, 2019). Public charter school enrollment. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved 9/6/2019 from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cgb.asp.

Ravitch, D. (9/5/2019). Texas: Public schools outperform charter schools. Retrieved 9/6/2019 from https://dianeravitch.net/2019/09/05/texas-public-schools-outperform-charter-schools/.

Ravitch, D. (6/22/2018). Charter schools damage public education. The Washington Post: Opinions. Retrieved 9/8/2019 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charter-schools-are-leading-to-an-unhealthy-divide-in-american-education/2018/06/22/73430df8-7016-11e8-afd5-778aca903bbe_story.html?noredirect=on.