Below you'll find a great commentary from The Ohio Coalition for Quality Education (OCQE) in response to an editorial recently published in The Columbus Dispatch that we wanted to share with you -- it's a worthy read.
Columbus Dispatch editorial declares charter schools a failure, ignoring parents 'right to school choice'
The beauty of a newspaper editorial is that the writer isn't hampered with facts, they just offer opinions. That's what occurred in a recent Columbus Dispatch editorial titled, charter schools purpose forgotten. Essentially, the editorial declared the charter school movement a failure and suggested that, "there is no reason for the public to continue to fund them."
Now, it's not unusual for newspapers to criticize charter schools, but this editorial's approach is dismissive and disrespectful of Ohio's 123,000 charter students and their parents who exercised their rights to school choice.
In 1997, the General Assembly passed a law establishing charter schools in Ohio - with one unique provision not found in any other state. Charter schools were required to be located only in major urban districts. The introduction of charter schools into Ohio's urban communities provided tens of thousands of poor inner-city families with a new educational choice for their children.
The hope of many was that charter schools would bring innovation to public education. Well, charters delivered 100% introducing schools focused on college preparatory, visual and performing arts, blended education, dropout recovery, schools for gifted students, math and science concentration and e-schools.
If charter schools were not part of the education system, but instead were viewed as a business, their remarkable growth would be hailed as a raving success. But unfortunately, supporters of traditional education do not like change or competition.
Critics of charter schools continually push for more regulatory and legislative changes that only present operational burdens - changes that they would NEVER propose for traditional district schools. And when these same critics are confronted about the hundreds of failing district schools - they suddenly become silent.
The Dispatch editorial writer also grumbled because of growing interest in modifying Ohio's accountability model to better align with student demographics. Many feel that Ohio is stuck with a state report card that works well for suburban students, but doesn't reflect the true demographics of urban students - poverty, student mobility, disability and English language learners.
While some institutional voices are resisting any change, it's well documented that high poverty communities yield low achievement. A recent K-12 Education study by Dr. Howard Fleeter stated, "Poverty is nearly perfectly negatively correlated with educational outcomes. And, the districts with the highest Performance Index scores have the lowest average percentage of economically disadvantaged students, and vice versa."
Several important states have already recognized the importance of including student demographics in their accountability models. No one is suggesting this new model be reserved just for charter schools. Rather, it should be available to ALL urban schools, as well as any school or district with a highly diverse population of students.
When fair comparisons are made of charters and neighborhood urban district schools that include student demographics - charters outperform district urban schools the majority of the time.
These same critics seem to think that urban parents aren't intellectual enough to identify a good school without help. But, the reality is that parents are smart and when they search for a school for their children, they study the options, network with other parents and make an informed decision about which school can best meet the individual needs of their children.
In Ohio, the parents of 123,000 students have made the decision that charter schools are the best choice for their families. Critics should stop social-engineering charter schools and respect the decision of thousands of taxpaying parents!