Former NYC Schools Chancellor Cites Charters as Proof That Even Poverty Is Not Insurmountable Barrier to Academic SuccessPosted 30 July 2012 by K12Reboot
Former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has long attracted the animosity of school choice opponents because of his advocacy of more school choice during his tenure as the city’s schools chief. In a Wall St. Journal opinion piece from July 26, he tackles one of the “sacred cow” excuses long given by the education establishment for the poor performance of U.S. public school students — that “we’ll never fix American education until we fix poverty”. Citing the latest test scores for New York City students, he notes that:
“Although the traditional public schools in the city have about the same ratio of poor children—and a significantly smaller ratio of black and Latino children—the charter schools outperformed the traditional schools by 12 points in math and five points in reading…Even more remarkable, the charter schools slightly outperformed the entire state of New York, which has far fewer poor children and minorities. While the poverty rate for NYC charters is more than 75%, for the state as a whole it is about 50%. Yet the charters beat the state average by 7.2 points in math and were only 3.6 points below in reading.”
Klein goes on to cite the example of Success Academies, which I discussed in a blog post last week:
“Success Academies, a charter group whose students are almost 100% minority and about 75% poor, had 97% of the kids at its four schools proficient in math and 88% in English. Miraculously, that’s more than 30% higher in both math and reading than the state as a whole.
The Success schools are performing at the same level as NYC’s best schools—gifted and talented schools that select kids based solely on rigorous tests—even though gifted schools have far fewer low-income and minority students. In short, with a population that is considered much harder to educate, Success is getting champion-league results.”
Critics like to accuse public charter schools of “creaming the best students” from traditional public schools — usually without citing any examples where that has ever happened. But those familiar with charter laws know that such selection is illegal in every state where charters operate. Indeed, the best charters usually have waitlists, where students are admitted by lottery. In the case of Success Academies, Klein turns the apologists’ charge on its head, by noting that students in the Success Academy charters, who are admitted by lottery from overwhelmingly poor and minority communities, actually outperform students in the city’s special schools for the gifted and talented, where the highest-achieving public school students must compete through tests to gain admittance!
As Klein says, “Let’s get real here: If anyone is creaming kids in NYC, it’s the gifted and talented schools that are designed to select kids solely based on performance, not the Success schools or other high-performing charters that are located in high-poverty communities, where they admit mostly poor kids based exclusively on lotteries.”
Seeing these results, and the growing waiting lists at local public charter schools, many parents in New York City are undoubtedly pondering Klein’s key recommendations for educators in traditional public schools: 1) stop the excuse-making that poor children can’t learn; 2) hold educators accountable for their students’ achievement; 3) and insist on a “culture of excellence, rather than wallow in a culture of excuses.”