Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Charter Schools and Educational Entrepreneurship ... Facts are Stubborn Things

A solid and widely available educational opportunity for all children is of vital importance to the continuing progress of our egalitarian oriented American society.

Not only will the opportunity to receive a quality education help an individual achieve success later in life, but a better informed society is a more prosperous and caring society as well. Accordingly, pursuing the national goal of providing equal opportunity in education is an absolute must.

And in that regard, an abundance of irrefutable evidence clearly supports the conclusion that free choice for parents and students will result in better educational outcomes at a lower cost to the public.

Charter schools are one such vehicle that support free choice and equal educational opportunities which result in better outcomes at a lower cost. What's not to like about this entrepreneurial approach to educating our nation's youth?

And the evidence is now becoming overwhelming that all this is doable if we'd just unleash the power of competition and free choice in education.

But then there's the politics of the matter. And the opposition to charter schools provides us with just one more reason demonstrating clearly why the politics surrounding our American system of public education sucks.

Will Obama's Budget Recognize Charter Schools? is subtitled 'Less than 1% of federal education dollars go to these demonstrably successful networks:'

"President Obama will soon release his federal budget for 2014, and a top priority is likely to be early-childhood education, particularly for the poor. But will the proposal seek much funding for the growth of charter schools—at least more than the paltry 0.4% of federal education spending that currently supports these exciting and demonstrably successful schools?

Last month, the respected private firm Mathematica Policy Research published a multiyear study of students enrolled in KIPP (the Knowledge Is Power Program), a network of 125 charter schools serving 41,000 students in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The study found that after three years students in the KIPP program were 11 months ahead of their traditional-public-school peers in math and eight months ahead in reading. Also after three years (or four for some children in the study), KIPP students were 14 months ahead in science and 11 months ahead in social studies.

These gains are substantial. For every three (or four) years they spend in the program, KIPP students are benefiting from almost a full year of greater learning growth than they would if they remained in traditional public schools.

This success is even more remarkable given that KIPP draws from some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. Some 96% of KIPP students are black or Hispanic. More than four of five come from households with annual incomes low enough to qualify for subsidized school lunch.

What's more, the typical incoming student at KIPP scores in the 45th percentile in district-wide reading and math exams. That initial achievement level is much lower than for the typical student entering the traditional public school system.

Other studies have found similar results. . . . In 2012, 87% of students in the Uncommon Schools charter network—which operates 15 New York City schools serving 3,900 kids—scored advanced or proficient in math. That is 27 percentage points above the city average. In English, more than half of Uncommon's kids were advanced or proficient, beating the city average by eight percentage points.

What is the key to the success of schools like KIPP and Uncommon?

For starters, as independent public schools, charters aren't weighed down by onerous regulations that stifle innovation. Administrators and teachers have the freedom to develop new and creative teaching methods. Charter schools have also attracted a new generation of talented, motivated teachers, school leaders and entrepreneurs through the promise of a new approach to educating underserved children.

Policy makers should encourage such educational entrepreneurship. One way they can do so is by eliminating state caps on charter schools, which currently apply in 21 of the 43 states (including Washington, D.C.) that have charter laws. With over 600,000 students on waiting lists to attend charter schools nationwide, this should be an easy task. . . .

At the same time, all charters should be regularly and rigorously reviewed. Those that consistently fail to meet achievement standards should be closed. . . .

The data are in. Charters can—and do—deliver top-notch education even to the most disadvantaged of American students."

Summing Up

Freedom of choice must come to America's educational system.

Better outcomes and lower costs will result in a more informed society.

And providing kids with better opportunities to acquire a solid education is obviously one of the best things we can do for them.

Besides, it won't cost us as taxpayers one single dime, and it will help to make the American dream become a reality for those who don't have much of a chance today.

What we have to do is stop the power and dominance of teachers unions and their political allies.

That's the challenge --- and it's very much a political one.

But We the People can and must make it happen for our nation's children. It's our duty.

Thanks. Bob.

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