Last weekend The New York Times ran an editorial that perpetuated one of the persistent myths about charters schools: that charters are not held strictly accountable for their students’ performance. We were dismayed by this across-the-board criticism, as charter schools in Massachusetts are subject to the most stringent accountability standards in the nation, including comprehensive reviews by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, regular site visits, and the submission of annual financial reports. A school’s charter is granted for five years, and the DESE can decline to renew the charter if the school is not performing up to the standards set by the state.
Below we share a letter to the NYT editor from the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, rebutting the criticism. We also note with pride that CCSC was one of the #1 ranked schools cited as evidence that charters schools in this area are outperforming other public schools, and are making great strides in closing the achievement gap among urban students.
To the Editor,
In a recent editorial (More Lessons About Charter Schools, Feb. 2), The Times asserts that charter public schools have broken promises on accountability and performance.
Nothing could be further from the truth in Massachusetts.
Since their inception almost 20 years ago, Massachusetts charters have consistently outperformed district schools, closing stubborn race and income-based achievement gaps and proving that disadvantaged children – given the right learning environment and supports – can achieve at the same level as children from affluent suburban districts. Various independent studies have confirmed this.
Twenty different charters – including six from Boston – ranked Number 1 in the entire state on various English, math and science statewide assessment tests last year. Under the state’s new accountability system, which measures success at closing the achievement gap, 69% of Boston charters received the highest rating compared to 15% of district schools. In other urban districts, 56% of charters received the highest rating compared to 11% of district schools.
One reason for this success is that Massachusetts employs the strict accountability standards The Times claims are lacking. It is extremely difficult to be awarded a charter and just as hard for it to be renewed. Several charters have been closed, while others have been granted renewals that are tied to future improvement.
Massachusetts also encourages its high performing charters to expand into networks. Several Boston charter operators have formed new networks, including KIPP and Uncommon Schools.
We agree that accountability needs to be enforced at all levels of public education, but to say that charters have not lived up to their promises in a gross generalization.
Executive Director, Massachusetts Charter Public School Association
11 Beacon Street, Suite 340
Boston, MA 02108