Monday, September 2, 2013

Good news / bad news on charters

"Advocates sell charter schools as a way to improve education, but evidence is mounting that charters eat into private school enrollment," Joy Pullmann reports for WORLD magazine. "This may damage opportunities for kids, as research consistently shows religious schools, which constitute most private institutions, educate children better than charter and traditional public schools."
This spring, the Census Bureau reported U.S. private school enrollment at a 55-year low, and attributed the slide largely to charter schools—experimental public schools free from some regulations. They sprouted in 1992. Other studies have concluded similarly: A 2006 study found that for every three students a charter school gains, private schools will lose one. Families that pick private and charter schools are similar, said study co-author Ron Zimmer: They typically have two parents and better-educated fathers. This suggests charters and private schools compete more against each other than against traditional public schools, he said.

“You hear [private schools] saying good times are not coming back,” said Michael Horn, education director at the Clayton Christensen Institute. Horn believes competition will “take out the low end in the market of independent schools over the next several years.” Suburban, city, and large private schools have been hardest hit by charter school competition, and especially inner-city Catholic schools, the Census Bureau found.

In 2011, Seacoast Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., turned its K-5 classes into Seacoast Charter Academy, dropping its weekly chapel service. A number of Catholic schools have become charter schools, removing crucifixes from walls and ending daily recitations of the Lord’s Prayer.

This shift may reduce the quality of school options families have, as students enrolled in religious schools are academically a year ahead of their charter and traditional public school peers, according to a 2012 analysis of 90 studies.

As some private schools have shed overtly religious elements in their attempt to keep students, others have begun to mimic charters by diving into technology and online learning.

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