Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education

By Chester E. Finn Jr.; Bruno V. Manno et al. | Go to book overview

4
HOW ARE THEY WORKING?

HOW WELL are America's charter schools doing? The answers are necessarily tentative. That the most ancient among them are barely seven years old—and the vast majority are in their first few years of operation—means that definitive data are scarce, particularly concerning pupil achievement. 1 Though organizational flaws can sometimes be glimpsed within weeks or months of a school's launch, no clear judgment can be made about any school's effectiveness after only a year or two with students. As Arizona State Superintendent Lisa Graham Keegan cautions, "I don't think one claims victory until [one sees] three to five years of sustained improvement." 2

Efforts to appraise charter schools' efficacy are also handicapped by the information vacuum that weakens our entire public education system. Conventional public schools are derelict when it comes to documenting their performance. State and local systems are awash in data about inputs (e.g., teacher credentials, expenditures, and graduation rates), but the gaps are wide when comparing schools or districts on their effectiveness. American education still has no agreed-upon system of performance accounting, and the partial evaluation systems that exist render schools anything but transparent. Charter schools, like other schools, function with this information deficit. Thus the evidence presented here is suggestive, not dispositive.

In this chapter, we first examine such achievement data as can be obtained, followed by a demographic profile of charter students. Next, we examine satisfaction levels among students, teachers, and parents, and look at the innovativeness and efficiency of these schools. Finally, we report on the demand for charter schools both in the United States and abroad.

____________________
1
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 70 percent of charter schools were brand new organizations. RPP International, The State of Charter Schools: Third-Year Report ( Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 1999), 14.
2
Statement of Lisa Graham Keegan to U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, 31 March 1998, published by the Education Leaders Council, Washington, D.C., 4.

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Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Charter Schools in Action - Renewing Public Education *
  • Contents *
  • Tables *
  • List of Interviews and Profiles *
  • Introduction *
  • Part I Charter Schools in Action *
  • 1: What's a "Charter School"? *
  • 2: Field Trips *
  • 3: Where Did They Come From? *
  • 4: How Are They Working? *
  • 5: Trials by Fire *
  • 6: The Accountability Puzzle *
  • Part II Renewing Public Education *
  • 7: The Case Against Charter Schools *
  • 8: Political Battlegrounds *
  • 9: Beyond the Schoolhouse Door *
  • 10: Beyond the Schoolhouse Door *
  • 11: The Great Issues *
  • 12: Will Charter Schools Save Public Education? *
  • Epilogue *
  • Appendix: Survey Results and Methodology *
  • Index *
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