Charter Schools

March 10, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 10
Do they outperform traditional public schools?
By Reed Karaim

Introduction

Supporters of charter schools (Getty Images/Drew Angerer)
Supporters of charter schools call for New York City to authorize more of the independently run public schools at a rally in Brooklyn on Sept. 28, 2016. A recent study found that, overall, charter schools mirror the performance of traditional public schools. (Getty Images/Drew Angerer)

Charter schools — public schools with more freedom to innovate than traditional public schools — have exploded in popularity in the past 25 years. About 6,800 charters now operate in 43 states serving 5 percent of the nation's public school students. Advocates say charter schools provide a superior education, and as proof they cite studies showing that charters have been particularly successful in raising student achievement scores in troubled inner-city districts. Charters do more with less, they say, by eliminating bureaucracy and allowing teachers to try different educational approaches. Critics, however, say that while some charters excel, most do no better than traditional public schools and many do worse. They also accuse charters of cherry-picking the best students and say the charter movement is driven, at least partly, by the desire of for-profit charter operators to make money from public education. Opposition to charter expansion has grown in some states, but President Trump and his new Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, are charter supporters.

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