More Families Flocking to Public Charter Schools, as Successful Models Improve

Today’s Denver Post features a story by Yesenia Robles that notes significant growth in public charter school enrollment. Here in Colorado, 13 new charter schools opened and 8,500 students were added to the rolls, marking an increase of nearly 12 percent. Nationally, charter school enrollment surpassed 2 million as 500 new charter schools opened and about 150 closed down for failing to perform. (Isn’t that one of the benefits of charters, though, after all?)

News like this sadly means an opportunity for some to retread discredited arguments against charter schools. I prefer a different approach. It wasn’t that many weeks ago I introduced you to a new comprehensive national study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education that took the air out of knee-jerk anti-charter mythology. One of the things we learned was:

Despite considerable variation among charter schools, there is ample evidence that charter elementary schools on average outperform traditional public schools in both reading and math, and that charter middle schools outperform in math.

No need to rehash the explanations of the problems with over-generalizing about charter schools vs. traditional public schools nationally. It’s a fruitless line of argument you can go back and review at your leisure. Even so, it allows for many local data-driven observations, like the new one showing overall “superior gains in charters versus traditional public schools” in our nation’s capital, along with a handful of charters subject to be closed down if they continue to show sub-par results for students.

Yet broadly speaking, the numbers indicate that parental demand for charters, both in our state and across the country, continue to grow. More and more families are looking for something different, something better and more effective, for their child.

Some still may be mired in mythology as an excuse to sling mud at the whole charter school movement, but many more all the time are moving on. Like the terrific Colorado Charter Schools blog, they are discussing and working toward improvements in how charters are authorized, managed and deliver services to families. It’s their greater flexibility and nimbleness because of fewer regulations on educational inputs that makes it so much more possible — and something to celebrate, as more people embrace the charter idea.