How far out on the fringe are the teacher unions fighting education reform and charter schools? So far out that one of the liberal flagship papers in the country roasts them in a no holds barred editorial. The Boston Globe takes a closer look at how education reform and charter schools have helped, not hindered, Massachusetts:
…Taking children by lottery, charter schools have produced markedly better test scores than traditional public schools. This is usually ascribed to the highly motivated principals and teachers, longer school days, and intensive tutoring at the most successful charters. […]
Not only that, the Globe debunks some of the arguments critics frequently use against charter school success stories:
In Boston, critics of charter schools like to point out that if students drop out or flunk out of charters, they return to traditional public schools — making it unfair to compare the test scores of students at charters with those in the regular system. Traditional public schools, the argument goes, take all comers; charters can quietly dump the unsuccessful kids. But this charge isn’t borne out to any significant degree in Boston’s own statistics. During the 2011-12 school year, a grand total of 73 students left charters and returned to Boston Public Schools. Not all had flunked out. But even if they had, they still represent only 73 kids in a system of 57,000 students — way too few to skew any test scores.Moreover, between school years, there is only a slightly higher attrition rate at charters than at Boston Public Schools, 9.7 percent to 8.7 percent. So if unsuccessful students are returning to traditional schools with their tails between their legs, they aren’t showing up in the statistics.
Massachusetts’ most recent education reform bill would extend some of the turn around reforms instituted in 2010 and extend them to more schools; it would also allow more charter schools to open. The bill has yet to pass the legislature, hampered by teacher unions who argue that the measures punish teachers and unfairly remove public school funding.Overall, education reform shouldn’t pit teachers against legislatures, but instead bring these groups together to come up with the most innovative and effective means of preparing students for their future. As we’ve seen, charter schools allow administrators to experiment without running into bureaucratic red tape, and they are making admirable strides in improving quality of education which benefits everyone in the long term. We need real reform supported by lawmakers and teachers to improve outcomes across the board. As the Massachusetts case study demonstrates, charter schools can prompt discussion and even healthy competition to jumpstart education reform.