Obama Administration Touting Charter Schools

Charter schools are laboratories of innovation in education, quality, accountability, cost efficiency and transparency, says U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Arne Duncan

By Oralia Valencia

Duncan spoke Tuesday at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Conference in Washington D.C..

Currently, there are over 6,000 charter schools in the U.S. serving about 2.3 million students, yet the promise of the charter movement still remains unfulfilled, according to Duncan.

“Many high performing charters have long, long waiting list of families and that story is both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time,” he said. “High performance charter schools have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels.”

Duncan said that charter schools must do more to take innovations that prove to be successful, at which point they must scale that performance throughout the education system.

“Charter schools must deal with the toughest of our nation’s educational challenges that include: students with disabilities, overaged students, students in the correctional system and English language learners.”

Metrics used in a recent charter school study focus on the number of days that kids attend class each year.

Recent findings from the national study on charter schools conducted by the Stanford Center for Research On Education Outcomes (CREDO) indicate that African American students living in poverty gained an additional 29 days in reading and 36 days in math each year. That is a meaningful impact, said Duncan.

Critics of charter schools, however, say they take resources, good teachers in particular, away from traditional public schools.

Performance of charter schools varies from state to state. 

According to CREDO, the national study analyzed performance of charter schools from 2009 to 2013 findings indicate improved outcomes for minority students and children living in poverty yet for many middle income students charter schools underperform their public school counterparts.

While the number of days in school is increasing for some students others are sent home for disciplinary reasons.

“Charters are more likely to suspend and expel students from charter schools than public schools. In Washington DC charter schools account for 75 percent of expulsions city wide.” Duncan urged principals of charter schools that “Higher rates of exclusionary discipline are simply not good for children. I want charters to show the way of implementing alternative discipline methods that keep children in school and maximize learning.”

Duncan told attendees at the conference he plans to continue to advocate for making more public buildings available for long term lease by public charter schools.

At the current rate of expansion it will take a hundred years for high performing charter schools to serve all school age children K through 12th grade.

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