CHICAGO, Nov. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Earlier this morning, two news reports were released that create the mistaken impression that charter school students in Chicago are more likely to transfer than students who attend traditional schools. The original article from Catalyst and the radio piece on WBEZ's Eight Forty Eight ignored the only systematic, comprehensive data on charter transfer rates in Chicago. What is even more puzzling is that this information is available on the Chicago Public Schools website at http://www.ren2010.cps.k12.il.us/docs/ONS_PerfReport.pdf.
A review of this data makes clear that charter schools have transfer rates that are lower than comparable schools:
- 9 out of 10 charter schools in Chicago have transfer rates that are lower than the neighborhood public schools that their students would have otherwise attended.
- Of the 74 charter campuses examined in the report, 67 of those campuses experienced transfer rates that were substantially lower than the comparison neighborhood school examined.
- When weighted by enrollment, the net transfer rate of charter schools is roughly half the rate of comparison neighborhood schools.
Perhaps most curious is the Catalyst article's claim that "[m]agnet schools are comparable to charter schools, with lotteries for coveted seats and no attendance boundaries." Magnet schools may be comparable to charter schools in the narrow sense that they may be oversubscribed, but magnet schools have express enrollment preferences and condition enrollment on test scores, something charter schools are prohibited from doing. This fact alone makes any magnet school comparison inapt. If one were to examine magnet school achievement data, for instance, it becomes immediately apparent that comparing such a school to an open enrollment charter school produces only heat, no light.
The news coverage also missed a larger truth about charter schools: charter schools are schools of choice, unlike many traditional public schools. This means that students may choose to attend charter schools or, if those students determine that the school is not serving their needs, they may choose to leave. Providing diverse, tailored options should be viewed as a benefit to the system.
Charter schools are also far from monolithic. They have been specifically designed to meet pressing student needs within CPS. KIPP Ascend, for instance, which uses a college going culture to prepare elementary students for lifelong success, has a very different mission that Youth Connections Charter Schools, which is a drop-out prevention and recovery network designed to serve students who have struggled in a traditional high school setting. In the context of such disparate models, it is very difficult to generalize results.
Not every charter school is perfect, and the charter school model may not fit every student who chooses to attend. Indeed, it is not uncommon for students who transfer into charter schools to take some time to adjust, a point acknowledged in the Catalyst article. Charter schools typically have longer school days, longer school years, and higher academic and behavioral expectations for their students. This is something that those of us working to improve public education should applaud, not decry. Frankly, I wish all of our public school students had the benefit of similar settings where they can be challenged, held accountable, and receive the benefit of additional instructional time.
Does this mean that there could have been instances of counseling out among the 41,000 students attending charter schools in Chicago? Possibly, but that is why we at INCS support authorizers who enforce the open enrollment provisions of the charter school law strictly to ensure that all students have an equal chance of enrolling in a high quality public school. It is also why we work directly with charter schools and charter school networks every day to help them understand the provisions of law as they make decisions that benefit students directly.
Charter schools that succeed do so because they are intentional about setting a culture of high expectations that permeate the school. This culture touches on every aspect of the school's organization and is designed to create an environment in which students can thrive. This culture is evidenced by the fact that charter high schools, unlike traditional high schools, do not have any metal detectors. Despite this lack of "protection," incidents of violence in charter schools are far fewer than those in traditional public schools. A cynic might claim this is because charter schools just happen to enroll more peaceful students; a realist would understand that getting school culture right is the first step in creating schools that actually work for our students.
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) is dedicated to improving the quality of public education by promoting and invigorating the charter school concept. The voice of the state's charter schools, INCS advocates for legislation to strengthen charter schools, educates the public about the value of charter schools, and supports the dissemination of best practices throughout the system.
Contacts: Jim Publicover
SOURCE Illinois Network of Charter Schools