NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Once Again, Charter Schools Are Proving Their Value

May 15, 2015

In June, 3.3 million American teenagers will graduate from high school. Just 80 percent of them graduate in four years, a share that declines to 65 percent among African-Americans. Yet in the last 40 years, school funding has exploded.

One reason all this spending has not brought better outcomes is that teachers' unions are more concerned with protecting their members than with helping students.

  • Pay and staffing decisions based on seniority, not skill, do not serve students' needs and also leave some American public school teachers disillusioned.
  • Charter schools offer many of the same benefits as private schools, since they are free from the stranglehold of teachers' unions. This leaves them able to experiment with and adopt new education methods, including uniforms and stricter discipline and to attract successful teachers.

Stanford University economics professor Caroline Hoxby found that a student who attended a charter school would close 86 percent of the "Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap" in math and 66 percent in reading. The gap represents the difference in student achievement, measured by test scores, between one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the New York metro area and one of the poorest.

Further evidence can be found in the results at Success Academy Harlem I:

  • At Harlem I, 86 percent of students are proficient in reading and 94 percent are proficient in math.
  • More than 80 percent of Success Academy students live in families with incomes below the poverty line, but students all across the Success Academy network are excelling.

This success is one reason why last year, 70,700 students in New York City applied for 21,000 available places in charter schools. Nationwide, over 1 million young people have entered their names on charter school waitlists. If charter school enrollment were 50 percent or higher nationally, then U.S. students would be "competitive with the highest-scoring countries in the world."

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer, "Education Reform That Works," Economics 21, May 13, 2015. 


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