Fast Focus: No value

December 16, 2012 

-- JOHN F. WILLIFORD, Richland

Charter schools seem to spring from a couple of not-too-admirable trends in America. The first of these is to denigrate anything run as a public function, and the second is to believe that everything set up as a competitive or alternative would be superior.

I did a fair amount of searching on the web, looking at various reports on charter schools. There are a number of federal and state level reports:

-- Executive Summary -- Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program: Final Rep

-- Study Finds Charter Schools Not the Answer for Raising North Carolina Academic

Most frequently, I found that outcome-based tests of comparative student attainment in several key areas of skill and knowledge showed that the charter schools did not look good against the public school system. Although this result appears to be a common finding, much is then done to mitigate the apparent educational shortcomings of the charter schools by looking at the demographics to show that the charter schools have higher percentages of "disadvantaged" children (or minorities -- which may be largely the same thing).

I have so far been unable to find a clear explanation of how or why charter schools would do as good of a job as our public schools can do, much less a better one.

Things that divide us do not seem in short supply in the climate of conflict within our increasingly fragmented and ungovernable country. Working to further divide and fragment, at higher cost, with no apparent benefit, seems counterproductive to me. (A less kind word might be "stupid").

So, to answer your question about what I would want a charter school to do in our area, my answer would be to stay away! Rather, let us direct our investment into the financial and moral support of our public school system, providing the changes we know will help our children become capable and informed citizens.

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