Friday, September 25, 2009

Charter schools work, for now

Jay Greene has a nice summary of the growing research showing that charter schools outperform traditional schools. He concludes by confirming something I've been expecting for some time: once the science becomes known and the movement picks up steam, the unions will "jump on board" in order to take control of the movement. As Greene notes, that has begun. With unions in the picture, look for charters to devolve into something that looks very much like traditional schools, with equally poor results.
In light of these high quality studies, it is harder to oppose charter schools on a scholarly basis. And with the clear support of charters from the incoming Obama administration, it is getting harder to opposed charter schools on a political basis — at least at the national level.

But don’t expect to see the teacher unions waving a white flag despite their losses in research and national politics. They don’t need facts or the support of the US Department of Education so long as they continue to dominate local school politics.

And that is exactly why they have focused on organizing local charter schools to neutralize the threat to their grip on local school politics. As my colleague Marcus Winters writes today in the New York Post, the unions managed to organize two successful charter schools in New York City. The fact that union-run charter schools in Massachusetts trailed the non-union charters in performance is not of concern to the unions. It isn’t about student achievement; it’s about keeping their hold on power even as the facts pile up against them.

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