The following letter from ERS' Randi Feinberg was published in The Boston Globe on March 25,2015.
In “Charter study should open some minds” (Op-ed, March 20), Scot Lehigh suggests that a recent study showing that charter schools outperform traditional public schools should lead us to question whether it is time to raise the charter school cap. But there is a more important question: How can we apply the lessons of charter school success to traditional public schools?
Roughly 18 percent of students in Massachusetts’ lowest-performing districts attend charter schools. Even if raising the current cap allowed that percentage to double, which would be extreme, the vast majority of students in the lowest-performing districts would still be in traditional public schools.
Understanding what makes charter schools successful is not easy, but at a minimum it must include that charter school leaders have managerial control over many aspects of their organization, such as discretion over hiring, extending the school day, or changing the master schedule. Traditional public schools have few, if any, of these options. These leaders’ hands are tied, yet they are held accountable for the performance of their students.
The success of charter schools is great news. Raising the charter cap could benefit some students. But applying the lessons of charter school success to traditional schools could benefit many more students.
Education Resource Strategies