Charter schools have become the latest education "quick fix". In Oklahoma, where we are in love with education reform without pain, we have recently passed a law allowing cities, colleges, and even entire school districts to set up a charter school district (as opposed to individual schools) that would be exempt from the state regulations regular public schools are subject to. Another aspect that appeals to these institutions is that the teachers in these schools are unable to join unions or other teacher representation organizations without the district's permission which effectively removes these teachers from any right to collective bargaining or due process rights.
Texas, a few years ago, allowed for the state creation of charter schools operating independently from local school districts in a manner similar to the new Oklahoma law. There are currently 332 of these campuses in the state of Texas, most of them created by non-profit organizations. The latest official report on these school finds that as a whole they under perform the public schools they are supposed to replace. The report by the Texas Center for Educational Research states:
Charter schools created directly by the State Board of Education--so-called "open-enrollment charter schools"--continue to produce "lower TAKS passing rates in all tested areas compared to traditional school districts statewide," according to the latest official evaluation published this month by the Texas Center for Educational Research. "Compared to traditional public schools statewide, open-enrollment charter school TAKS passing rates for 2007 are 5% lower in writing, 7% lower in reading/ELA, 12% lower in social studies, 14% lower in mathematics, 21% lower in science, and 14% lower in all tests taken." The study also found that, "compared to traditional public high schools, open-enrollment charter schools have lower graduation rates, lower percentages of students who complete the Recommended High School Program, and lower advanced-course completion rates."
When the economic and demographic situations of the schools student bodies are matched, public schools in Texas still outperform similar charter schools.
There are no quick fixes to public education problems. All the problems of our society walk through our school doors every day of the term.
TCER Report Link (355 pages in pdf file.