by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
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,
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.”