Debunking "The Harlem Miracle"

One of the scariest aspects of the main planks of the current education reform movement is a call for more charter schools. Clearly, Obama, Klein, et al, say, charter schools are getting results that public schools can't. The obvious solution then, is more of them. Never mind the fact that these schools only serve a fraction of the student population in the cities they operate in. These schools are nothing short of miracle workers.

Or, maybe there's more to the story. It's actually no big mystery. It just requires a bit more than the lazy thinking that charter school cheerleaders looking for a silver bullet are willing to expend. How do charter schools get their unbelievable results? They're simply not teaching the same students that public schools service.

Don't take my word for it. Check out InsideSchools report, bluntly titled, "Most Vulnerable Students Shut Out of Charter Schools." The report explains what most people in education already know. The secret behind many charter schools' too-good-to-be-true test scores is the fact that they don't cater to most difficult students to teach, those being students who are homeless, English Language Learners or have special needs. Not to mention it helps to have the luxury of kicking out any student with behavioral problems, no questions asked.

It's not that there aren't charter schools doing exciting new things and making exciting progress. I'm just fed up with the rush to coronate charter schools as THE ANSWER to America's failing schools. Before we get even close to that, we should probably look a little deeper at exactly what sort of results they're getting and how relevant it is compared to the populations of all other public schools.

Big Hat Tip to GothamSchools.


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