Study: Majority of U.S. charter schools perform equal or worse than traditional schools

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  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    June 28, 2013 10:08 p.m.

    The main attraction of charter schools is the appeal to vanity of parents and re-segregation. Case in point, dumprake at 4:48 a.m.:

    "The whole point of the charter school was to get the students away from the "poor" and "poverty" thing and teach students to excel instead of being dumbed down to the poorest students."

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    June 26, 2013 10:09 a.m.


    Teachers would work more days I'm sure if pay was available. Many do a lot in the summer to compensate for their incomes so I doubt all are just sitting around. I'm sure many teachers would work over Christmas break but that was created so parents could have time off with their children not so teachers could have two weeks of unpaid vacation. Also, private sector jobs have time off and vacations. If not, this probably doesn't say much about our capitalistic system if all people have to look forward to is working 365 days a year with no vacation. But in reality most people get certain holidays off, two days a week off and if you add those up, the "gap" between what teachers supposedly work, because many teachers work on their own unpaid time for the betterment of their students, isn't as drastic.

  • politicalcents West Jordan, UT
    June 26, 2013 8:27 a.m.

    Overworked and underpaid? Not likely. Jordan School District teachers are required to work 181 days. That is less than HALF the calendar year. With Summer vacation, 2 weeks at Christmas, every holiday off, other days just because they have been working so much, all weekends, and even have sick leave and vacation. On top of that, the insurance coverage for teachers is INCREDIBLE more than compensating for their "lack of pay". So, as college graduates, if they are required to work half the year, they should make HALF the pay, which is about right for what they do. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate teachers, and I know they work hard, and some even deserve more money. However, to say that they are overworked and underpaid is more than a stretch.

  • Utah Teacher Orem, UT
    June 25, 2013 9:02 p.m.

    Procurador that isn't true. The secondary ed dept at many schools is dying. I know at BYU their secondary education science majors often have less than 10 students graduating in a given year. I have sat in on interviews for science teaching openings at a local school where only 4 applicants applied. 3 of those applicants didn't even have teaching credentials but said they would take the job if we couldn't find anyone else. It is a myth to think that there is a long line of people waiting for the jobs. Yes in a down economy those numbers go up because people see it as a secure job but most years are lean in the teacher applications.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 25, 2013 5:48 p.m.

    Re: "If [teachers were paid too much], we would see a LONG line of people lining up to become teachers."

    We DO see a long line of people lining up to become teachers. Education is one of the largest colleges at many universities, often with the highest graduation rates.

    Then, there's the federal Department of Education. Secretary Duncan has a plan to provide $60 billion for education, in the form of "jobs for educators and upgrades to schools and community colleges."

    Yeah, that's unlikely. Most of that $60B won't go to teachers, but it won't go begging, either.

    But there'll be plenty of people lining up to guzzle it.

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    June 25, 2013 4:24 p.m.

    Having taught in both, there is good and bad in both. Testing only math and English doesn't tell the whole story. My charter school taught a lot more history from Core Knowledge and more science. Many in the district schools were dropping history/geography to spend more time on the tested subjects, which is tragic. We can't build this nation's next generation without teaching history.

    Most charters start out opposing the "feel-good," constructivist methods, which don't work well, but since that's all teachers are trained in at college, even they gradually move to being quite a bit like the district schools in the "feel-good" things that are mostly empty of value.

    However I could never make a career with a charter school. There is no security - for the GOOD teachers. A change of administration can wipe you out very quickly. I've heard too many horror stories from charter school teachers themselves and watched this happen. Teachers need some protections, and they need a decent salary.

    June 25, 2013 4:15 p.m.

    Education is in trouble because teachers are overworked and underpaid. The actual teaching time is restricted because there are too many tests, reports, and paperwork for teachers to complete that the actual teaching time is compromised.

    I taught school ONE year many years ago and admire teachers who put up with the interferring parents, top heavy administration, and pay so low it is insulting to college graduates.

  • steverb LEHI, UT
    June 25, 2013 2:57 p.m.

    The standardized test scores simply don't show what is really happening in a school. Its a narrow measure of education. Also, these studies do not account for the varied situations in which charters are created. For instance, a charter school could be achieving less than average test scores, but be achieving better scores in relationship to the neighboring schools, or the charter could cater to struggling students, who, while improving, would still likely score worse on the tests. This study is broad, doesn't tell the whole story, yet many of you want to make hay from it, one way or another. THAT is why education is in trouble.

  • politicalcents West Jordan, UT
    June 25, 2013 2:21 p.m.

    There is a fact that many are not considering here when defending Charter Schools. Most parents send their children to Charter schools for improved education and higher results. Standardized testing is the constant. However, there is a broad spectrum of students in Public Education which drags down test scores because they either don't care, or are not getting support from home, etc. That is why internationally comparing test scores has always bothered me. For example, in Germany, only their elite students are sent to their version of high school (the others, to trade schools) So when comparing the US high school students, and we are close in our scores-we are comparing ALL of our students to their elite. I am not saying that there is not work to be done in the system-many improvements are needed. But if the Charter schools attempt to be elite education is only a little better at best.....well, we can see that it may not be working as it should.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    June 25, 2013 1:54 p.m.

    Allen#2 hit it on the nose. Now with that said, I have a suggestion for our public schools. You have policies in place that deal with student attendance. Enforce those policies. Enforce your policies that deal with student discipline. Expect your educators to come to school looking like professionals, not like they just crawled out of bed. Those 3 items are a good place to start if you want to begin to make changes in the education model. Oh, BTW, I am speaking as a 28 year veteran of the public school system.

    June 25, 2013 1:16 p.m.

    Charter schools are a fancy name for legalized class distinction and racism.

  • 2cents_EM Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 25, 2013 12:54 p.m.

    I have taught elementary school for 12 years and have taught in both public and charter schools. From my experience there can be very effective schools in both sectors and there are also some very badly performing schools in both sectors. It does frustrate me a little bit when parents, or the public in general, assume that the local charter school must be better than the public school. It may be, but that is not a given. Parents need to carefully do their research when deciding to place their children in a charter school. Some of them are really great, but some of them are horrible. My own experience teaching at a charter school was not great. I worked with wonderful students and parents but the organization of the school was terrible. I have also worked at several public schools in different school districts. Some were wonderful, others weren't. All have room to improve. Parents do your homework when you're making choices about your child's education.

  • Lifelong Republican Orem, UT
    June 25, 2013 12:06 p.m.

    I love how the Dnews has buried this story so quickly. It doesn't fit their pro-charter, pro-voucher, anti-public ed editorials so to the back of the line goes this story.

    procurador, you lost all credibility when you claim public schools are paying too much. If that were the case, we would see a LONG line of people lining up to become teachers. That just isn't happening. There are a few that think it will be an easy job, just rake in the money while babysitting a bunch of kids. Then they start working and realize it is much more than anyone realizes. Those are the teachers that usually leave the profession in 3 years or less. I think it is now around 50% that leave within the first 3 years.

    I've seen some good charter schools and some bad ones. Parents need to do their research to see what they are getting their kids into before making the leap.

  • RWSmith6 Providence, UT
    June 25, 2013 10:58 a.m.

    Since charter schools provide choice, charter schools are important. How much better can they be, though, than public schools otherwise? Only as much as their having to deal with the same problems as public schools do will allow them to be. If their teachers are overburdened (class size, mixed student abilities, and total daily student load), undercompensated (as are all of Utah's K-12 teachers by ANY measure applied), underappreciated as true professionals who must continually improve themselves through additional coursework and seminars, how much better can charter schools really be? If the playing field is truly level for public and charter schools, there can be no significant differences in outcomes.
    The subject is a big one and deserves a series of investigative articles incorporating on-line learning, home-schooling, themed schools ("collegiate" high, "tech") where self-selection is by interest, school populations affected by non-native speakers, and so on.
    Also there's a lot of evidence from economists who have as much as predicted the current "crisis" in America's K-12 education due to failure to plan for the long-term financially and in the training, recruitment, and retention of teachers. The record in America has been abysmal.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 25, 2013 10:53 a.m.

    Re: "There are a few good ones out there but there are even more bad ones showing up all the time."

    Which flies in the face of the study being reported.

    It specifically found that there wasn't much difference in performance, that charter schools are getting better all the time, and that they are meeting the needs of those most at risk.

    And, if teachers leave charter schools the first chance they get, it only illustrates the fact that public schools are paying too much.

  • opencontent Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 25, 2013 10:46 a.m.

    What an unfortunate headline. The bias of either Mr. Wood or the paper's editors is clearly on display and is disappointing. While the headline the story runs under is true:

    - "Majority of U.S. charter schools perform equal or worse than traditional schools"

    even a cursory look at the data shows an that opposite headline is also true:

    - "Majority of U.S. charter schools perform equal or BETTER than traditional schools"

    When both headlines are accurate, calling out the poor performance of some schools in the headline clearly reflects a conscious choice to focus on the negative instead of the positive when it comes to charter schools.

    When you remove the schools whose performance is not significantly different, what does a direct comparison of schools reveal? 1713 of the charter schools in the study were significantly worse than other public schools in their local market, while 1827 of the charter schools in the study were significantly better than other public schools in their local market. In other words:

    - Among charter schools whose performance differs significantly from other public schools in their local market, the majority of charter schools are significantly better than the other public schools in their local market.

  • WestSideResident West Jordan, UT
    June 25, 2013 10:36 a.m.

    Charter Schools have a "elected" governing board of directors made up of parents - some of whom are educators. This board selects the principal of the school, not the district. The principal selects the teachers, not the district. From what I've seen there is a greater accountability for teaching in charter schools than what I've seen in regular public schools. Principals and teachers who don't perform and educate don't last very long in the charter environment. No education assosciation contracts that bind schools to reward nonproducting teachers or administrators.

    Give me administrators and teachers who are committed to really educating our youth anytime over those how just put in their time.

  • Lifelong Republican Orem, UT
    June 25, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    Judi Clark's statements in the article are little worrisome. She completely denies the statistics and facts and throws out the "thousands of families are on waiting lists". This seems to be the favorite line of the pro charter crowd. I frankly don't believe it. The charter by me sends out flyers advertising their school. They can't get enough students. Their teachers leave the first chance they get to move into a normal school.

    Parents should have choice but parents need to do their homework. Don't just follow a fad. If a charter school is the right answer for your family, do your research and make sure you know what you are getting into. As the report and data show, charter definitely doesn't mean better. There are a few good ones out there but there are even more bad ones showing up all the time.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    June 25, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    It is hilarious to read the comments from the people with their head buried in the sand. This is just one of many studies saying the same thing. Charter school generally perform worse than regular schools. The people that are usually touting how great they are usually have some kind of financial interest in saying so.

    What it comes down to is who is teaching at the school. I don't want to make too big of a generalization but many of the teachers at charter schools are the ones that couldn't get hired at a regular school for whatever reason. I don't know of a single teacher that dreams of one day working at a charter. It is less stable and that is a huge factor in the teaching profession.

    Of course ask your local charter parent how their school compares to the local public school and they will tell you the charter is light years ahead of the other school. I hear it from my own neighbors. Then I ask if they have compared test scores. The charter is on average 7-10% lower in ever category.

    The truth hurts but that doesn't change it.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 25, 2013 8:38 a.m.

    Re: "Charters have failed. Vouchers clearly don't work."

    Yeah, yeah. Same old UEA/NEA party line.

    Note that this study also found, ". . . the charter school sector is getting better on average and . . . charter schools are benefiting low-income, disadvantaged and special education students . . . ."

    Which certainly is NOT true of mainstream, trade-union-controlled public education.

    It's not surprising that charter schools would be pronounced a failure by "educator" trade-union activists, since their "judgment" is more informed by personal, pecuniary interests, than by concern for students.

    Since non-union charter schools do as much or more for students, at lower public cost, than union-controlled public schools, only disingenuous union bosses could call them failures.

  • JWB Kaysville, UT
    June 25, 2013 8:07 a.m.

    Charter school processes are to have a business manager run a school, usually not an educator. They look for efficiencies but that doesn't necessarily include educational background. Parents are lured to the "other" school process and then come 1 October the parents want to change their children back to the public school for one reason or another, and then the normal "public" school district cannot get the money for the school the children will be attending, "again". The charter schools use enticement, marketing, and other PR tools to get their "students" through normal business methods.

    Normal "public" schools teach the children that the charter schools don't want that would lower their scores such as challenged children of various backgrounds and status.

    Though charter schools may say they are public schools due to receiving funding, they are a form of private schools in the thought and educational processes.

    Parents in some environments use the "huge" school as a rationale for moving children. They sometimes don't want to have to be involved in the normal public school process as that lowers their status symbol that their children are just normal kids.

    Normal public schools provide for everyone under the law.

  • Iron_Patriot North Ogden, UT
    June 25, 2013 8:02 a.m.

    I think we're all missing something obvious here. Look at the infographic and then ask yourself what you think about the headline. Here's a hint:

    81% of charter schools are significantly better or not significantly different in reading
    69% of charter schools are significantly better or not significantly different in math

    This is not, of course, what the headline focused on. It is, of course, factually accurate, since

    75% of charter schools are significantly worse or not significantly different in reading
    71% of charter schools are significantly worse or not significantly different in math

    By any reasonable standard, the data are inconclusive at best, but if you had to choose a direction you should probably add up the "better or not different" and get 150% and add up the "worse or not different" and get 146% and conclude that the "better or not different" would win and focus on that. The data doesn't suggest a strong conclusion either way. An unbiased author would probably conclude that "Data suggest that most charter schools are not significantly different from their traditional public counterparts in English and Math." It's frustrating to have people drawing conclusions about this story without understanding the data.

  • GD Syracuse, UT
    June 25, 2013 7:57 a.m.

    I wonder how environment fits into all of this.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    June 25, 2013 7:42 a.m.

    Chuck, you hit on something there. Little kids (even high school kids) get lost in huge schools.

  • nmjim SANDIA PARK, NM
    June 25, 2013 7:38 a.m.

    Oh, How Informative. A totally unbiased study by a major university about charter schools. If charter schools struggle, it is because they are trying too hard to emulate public schools.

  • JBQ Saint Louis, MO
    June 25, 2013 7:33 a.m.

    The important part of the study is in regard to "low income, disadvantaged, special education". These groups showed definite improvement with charter schools. Whites and Asians appeared to regress. As someone who is a retired urban high school teacher, I would say that the charter schools offer discipline for students who have none in their home life. The parallel public schools offer an education plan modeled on John Dewey which emphasizes freedom of development. School children are begging for guidance and the charter schools appear to give that to them. Charter schools would lean toward the model of education stressed by Hyman Rickover who was a heavy critic of Mr. Dewey and who also was the father of the modern American Navy.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    June 25, 2013 7:30 a.m.

    I guess if you disagree with the results of the study it's easy to merely shrug it off and call the study, "bogus."

    The truth is, the gig is up. We aren't drinking the charter school Kool-aid. Nor the voucher nonsense. The pro-voucher folks were just hit hard. Instead of dealing with it they prefer to put their heads in the sand and call this study, "bogus."

    It's pretty obvious how silly some folks are being.

  • dumprake Washington, UT
    June 25, 2013 4:48 a.m.

    This is bogus. Charter schools are light years ahead of regular public schools in the quality of education. The study reveals its bias when it let slip that "poverty" and "poor students" was the real driving thesis. The whole point of the charter school was to get the students away from the "poor" and "poverty" thing and teach students to excel instead of being dumbed down to the poorest students. I am personally aware of several charter schools, and all of them are far superior to the regular public schools, there is just no comparison.

  • BYU>utah provo, UT
    June 25, 2013 12:21 a.m.

    Our charter school here in Saratoga Springs (Lakeview Academy) is much better than the public schools in the surrounding areas. The discipline is better, the learning atmosphere is better, morality is better, etc. Our kids feel safe at the charter school where at the big middle school it was like a jungle.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    June 25, 2013 12:00 a.m.


    And the pro voucher crowd wants more of this?

    No thanks.

    Charters have failed. Vouchers clearly don't work. Back to the drawing board folks!

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    June 24, 2013 10:52 p.m.

    Some trust parents to choose what is best for their children, and to compare between the servvices and learning at a Charter School and traditional public schools. They have a vested interest in THEIR child's success for a lifetime.

    Others trust the "village" and the "government skools" to warehouse kids and indoctrinate them in the tenants of political correctness, and sometimes old-fashioned stuff like reading, writing and math. The teachers unions love to keep the numbers enrolled as high as possible so they can demand more money and more teacher [union] jobs. Many teachers are wonderful and truly care, but too many are not, and they are a far greater danger than any possible gap between what takes place in public schools and what takes place in Charter Schools.

    Two more questions for the CREDO folks at Stanford--
    1- How do home schooled children compare with their peers in public schools.
    2- What is the ultimate failure to graduate rate for public and charter schools? Are your results skewed by eliminating those who are totally failed by the schools? (Although a large portion of the blame for failure belongs to the student and their parents.)

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    June 24, 2013 10:50 p.m.

    If the traditional districts would make their schools the same size as the charter schools, they would smoke the charters. That is a charter school's biggest advantage.

    If we divided our big districts into community-sized districts, we would be more likely to get this size of school and a more supportive public as well.