Are charter schools succeeding nationally?

From The Daily Circuit’s Tom Weber:

Reporter Tim Post brought us the story during Morning Edition about a new study that finds charter schools in the Twin Cities metro area underperform academically in comparison to their traditional public counterparts and are more racially segregated.

The report is from the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School.

“If you look at the total group, they’re underperforming the public schools significantly and a lot of the ones who are serving the poorest kids are not only doing very badly, but not lasting very long,” said Myron Orfield, the institute’s director.

In all, the Twin Cities’ 30,000 charter school students score 7.5 percentage points lower on math testing and 4.4 percent lower on reading tests than students at traditional public schools. But as Tim Post reported, charter school advocates weren’t fazed all that much by the data because they believe their schools provide an important education alternative, especially to students who have long struggled academically.

So what’s this looking like nationally?


Mark Berends, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame University and director of the Center for Research on Educational Opportunities said that when charter schools first opened there was fear from traditional school districts that the charters would ‘skim’ the best students away.

Berends said what has ended up happening isn’t skimming. but what’s being called ‘cropping’ – for a number of reasons, charters actually end up getting the lower-performing student.

He noted a study he tried to do to compare traditional schools with charters and he had a hard time finding a sample because the demographics between the two were so different. The charters in the area he was studying were so much more segregated, so he had trouble just starting the study.

Sondra Samuels, CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone in Minneapolis, issued this statement in response to Tim’s story:

“I think we have to stop this false argument about Charter vs. District schools and forced segregation vs. the choice of a parent to send their child to more culturally affirming school. Our focus has to be on All of our children receiving a quality education wherever they go and irrespective of the race of the student in the seat next to them- this is especially important for low-income African American children who are being left most behind.”

The audio from our interview:

Related PDF: “Is Chartering, as a Strategy, Succeeding?”

Tom Weber