Nov 3, 2003
Charter schools have been around in Michigan for 10 years now – more than enough time to judge their track record. So, how are they doing?
Well, that's hard to say – since no mechanisms were ever set up to measure and keep track of their performance. The state Education Department doesn't even have a full list of who runs what charter schools in Michigan – even though they receive millions of dollars in tax money each year.
But an investigative report by the Detroit News showed very clearly that Michigan charter schools have performed poorly – on just about every level.
The standard test used to judge school performance in Michigan is the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test – the MEAP. At the fourth grade level, charter school students averaged far below those of public schools in all three areas of math, reading and writing. In public schools, 66%% of students met state standards in math; in company-managed charters, only 44% did. In reading, 76% of public school students met the minimum standard; only 56% in company-managed charter schools did.
Charter school supporters argue that the public school averages include the wealthiest, best-performing public schools while the charter schools draw from the poorest school districts. The News investigation demonstrated reporters discovered that even when poverty levels are taken into account, the charter schools still perform way below comparable public schools.
Charter schools were supposed to show the biggest improvement – so promised politicians and company officials – because the profit motive would push those schools to show results.
No, the profit motive only pushed these companies to take the money and run. The charter schools spend a smaller part of their budgets on the classroom – on teachers, books, supplies, etc. – than any other schools.
So, why do parents keep sending their children to these schools? Why do these schools continue to have long waiting lists?
Many parents are desperate. They bring their children from poorly performing public schools in an attempt to provide them SOME kind of quality education..
And no one gives parents the information that would allow them to make a real choice. Just the opposite. The schools themselves and the state agencies that are supposed to monitor them have hidden the results that show how poorly these schools perform.
The fact that the state never set up ways to monitor their performance shows what this was from the beginning – a way to funnel money to the politicians' business associates, so that they could make some money, or to religious organizations, so that they could use public money to push their doctrines.
The tragedy for over 60,000 working class children tricked into the charter schools is that they are getting an even worse education.