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New report reveals charter school success

caines | 4/26/2012, 5 a.m.

Are Black students really better off?

Since their inception here in Florida in 1996, there have been numerous studies and heated debates over whether charters are a better option for students than traditional public schools. Both receive tax dollars but charter schools are governed by independent boards. And while their numbers have continued to increase each year, most reports have shown only negligible differences in student performance. But a study recently-released by the Florida Department of Education shows that charter students are outperforming their peers at traditional public schools across the board. If you go back five or six years, the numbers werent as good for charter schools; the fact that more are around and have been established for awhile has something to do with the improvement, said Michael Koii, executive director of Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, Florida Department of Education. Charter schools must be chosen by parents that decision indicates that parents want to be more involved in their childs education. This is a solid report a good report. It says that charter schools should be applauded for doing a good job.

A closer look at the reports findings

The report used data from the 2010-2011 school year, comparing how students performed in three areas: the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test [FCAT]; achievement gaps between white and minority students; and learning gains made by students. Charter school students generally outperformed those in traditional public schools on FCAT reading, mathematics and science exams. In addition the report indicates that Miami-Dade enrolls more than 70 percent of low income students in charter schools. Statewide, 45 percent of students in charter schools are poor, compared to 55 percent of students in traditional schools. Charter schools only represent six percent of student populations statewide but theyre growing, Koii added. And they come certain benefits: more flexibility in curriculum; no union contracts which means teachers can be hired or fired easier; and theres more flexibility in terms of facilities and additional personnel. Most important they provide unique programs and services because they understand that children learn in different ways. Its another option and thats key for low income families who often would not have an option for their children. In the past only those with financial means had a real choice they could send their children to private schools. Charters put choice into the equation and while they arent the answer for all kids for some they are the best way to facilitate learning.

School board member refutes findings

Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, M-DCPS school board member, says she has read the report but does not believe that charter schools are preparing students any better than traditional public schools. Charter schools serve less than six percent of the states public school students, she said. But the report offers no mechanism to translate that difference except in percentages. It just cannot be taken without scrutiny. Parents need the opportunity to find an educational program for their child and I believe that these choices are offered by our traditional public schools, regardless of zip code or adjusted gross income. Still, we know that poverty severely impedes a students ability to excel in school. She added that the thinks the culture that once fostered low student expectations is changing.