Many have reviewed the CREDO report out of Stanford University with varying conclusions. Some assert that it shows that charter schools are failing our kids. Others look at it as a challenge for the future. Others see the fact that half of charters are about the same as their peers as a sign that while choice hasn't improved education, it at least offers an equal education giving parents choices.
While there are many possible conclusions that can be made from the report, the fact that there are different conclusions being made suggests that the facts to not give us proof of anything except that so far in charter school history, charters have not shown a propensity to far exceed their traditional public school counterparts.
Because we cannot make a clear conclusion, let me make a few suggestions.
1. Charter schools are younger as a group than public schools, and many charter schools are only four or fewer years old. It may take another four or five years to find out the real impact of charter schools. As they are, on the whole, not doing worse than public schools, they should continue to move forward.
2. We should analyze those charter schools (17%) that are doing far better than their comparison schools and figure out what they are doing right to see if their practices can be replicated.
3. Charter schools should be encouraged because they can innovate faster than traditional schools. Another possibility is that we make traditional public schools into organizations that can and do innovate faster.
4. We should take action to evaluate poor schools to determine if and how they might be fixed. Did they hire a bad leader? Are teachers not being held accountable? Should the school be closed? There is nothing wrong with saying that a school cannot be fixed if it's true.
Education reform must happen. I believe that charter schools are the best hope we have for that innovation, but they must be taken seriously when they succeed. They must be encouraged to change if they aren't succeeding. They must also close if they fail.
The solution to education is bigger than charter versus non-charter. The solution is to find out what works and implement it whether it be in a charter or non-charter. If non-charters don't want innovation, then they should be closed just like a charter school would. If a charter school refuses to innovate, it should be closed as well. No more double standards. It's public money, so let's find out what best serves the public, not teachers, not superintendents, and not charter leaders. Choice, innovation, effectiveness. Let's go for it!