It is tempting to point to new test results showing charter school students trail average test scores in every category as evidence that the experiment is a mistake. Not surprisingly, these numbers were not exactly shouted with fanfare:
The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.But we should not play that game right into their hands. Does this information make proponents mistaken in one of their main tenets about allowing parents to choose schools? Yes. But the argument that charter schools will be an educational failure is secondary. Even if they produced an increase in test scores, charter schools drain public school resources and ultimately can threaten constitutional provisions separating church and state. Charter schools aren't as inherently dangerous as voucher programs, depending on how they are structured, but once our loudest argument becomes about test scores, all public-school-detractors have to do is increase theirs. In general, charter schools fail many other important hurdles than just--for now--that one.
The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.
See more about charter schools from People for the American Way here.