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Charter Schools: A Seat at the Cool Kids' Table

As it concerns charter schools, whether you're hoping to sound really smart at your next dinner party or just generally catch up to speed, the New York Times ran a story that would help with both.

"In the world of education, it was the equivalent of the cool kids' table in the cafeteria," wrote Trip Gabriel, who, in exploring our recent fascination with all things charter, rightly bursts our bubble.

Because despite charter schools' widespread support from hedge fund managers and  billionaire philanthropists (not to mention John Legend and Sting), the results of how well charter schools actually perform is mixed at best.

"For all their support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests."

And then there's this: "Fewer than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered an equivalent education and more than a third, 37 percent, were significantly worse."

Granted, a minority of charter schools seemingly accomplish the impossible task of successfully narrowing longstanding gaps between how minority and white students perform in the classroom. But the story raises the important point that raising student achievement is difficult business, and a task that is often only accomplished at great, privately funded, expense.

The challenge ahead is in trying to expand the charter-school models that are successful and transforming those into sustainable enterprises, while simultaneously shuttering the ones that continue to fail our kids.

And in the meantime, to not lose sight of the fact that 97 percent of our kids are still educated at regular public schools. So while the spotlight is shining down brightly on the three percent enrolled in charter schools, a whole generation is being educated elsewhere.

Where do you fall along the charter school continuum: yay or nay or somewhere in between?

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