Yesterday, the News & Observer published two articles about North Carolina’s charter schools.  “Should you send your child to a charter school?  Here are the facts” was the less objectionable of two, but that is not to say that it was without fault.

The article begins, “The No. 1 goal, as stated in the charter school law, was improved student learning.”  That is true.  But that is only one of six goals listed in the charter school law.  The others include,

  • Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are identified as at risk of academic failure or academically gifted;
  • Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;
  • Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunities to be responsible for the learning program at the school site;
  • Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system; and
  • Hold the schools established under this Article accountable for meeting measurable student achievement results, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.

If you want to assess the success or failure of charter schools, then all six must be considered.

Helen Ladd of Duke University, who has never been a fan of charter schools because of some vague notion of the “public interest,” admits that charters have “gotten better over time.”  Even if one believes that charter school performance is unsatisfactory because, as Ladd notes, it is no better or worse than district schools on average, surely academic improvement is cause for optimism.  She concludes that “here’s no good reason to throw all this money to charter schools.”

Yet, the fact that charters have been tremendously successful at meeting the other five goals suggests that they do, in fact, warrant continued financial support.  The News & Observer article makes the case that charters have, indeed, introduced innovative instructional methods and expanded opportunities for students, parents, and teachers.  As such, I would argue that there is plenty of reason to throw “all this money to charter schools.”