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Georgia’s elected officials have chosen charter schools as their way to improve education. Thus far, their bet has not paid off.
A new report from the State Charter Schools Commission finds that charter schools perform about the same as public schools. This is similar to the conclusions of many states and districts and studies. Charter schools are free to choose their students and free to push out the ones they don’t want. They are free from most state regulations and are lightly supervised. But there are few differences in performance between the charter sector and the public schools. Some might argue that test scores should not be used as the yardstick of quality, but low test scores–and the promise of raising them–was the rationale for creating charter schools. So, it is duplicitous to make excuses for their inability to bring every child to high levels of proficiency, as they once claimed they could do.
A new report about the performance of schools authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission finds a mixed bag, with 15 statewide charter schools neither excelling far ahead of nor dragging far behind the traditional public schools against which they’re meant to compete.
At the elementary school level, most of the charter schools performed as well as the average traditional school in 2014-15, says the report by Georgia State University, which provides significant detail about the performance of each school. In general, by middle school, the charters were performing as well as or better than average. High school was a mixed bag.
The Charter Schools Commission was established in 2012 by a state constitutional amendment and began working in 2013. It authorizes a subset of charter schools, with local school districts still the lead authorizer for most (the local districts work with the Georgia Department of Education, a separate entity from the Commission).
As of December, 91,000 Georgia students were attending 441 charter schools, including 97 “start-up” charter schools, 18 “conversion” charter schools, and 326 “charter system” schools in 32 charter systems, which are regular school districts that have signed charters with the state, according to a recent Education Department report. The number of charter systems is growing, though.
Here is a link to the full report, written by Professor Tim Sass of Georgia State University.
Georgia plans to create an “Achievement School District,” based on the failed model in Tennessee. It promised to take over the state’s lowest performing schools (in the bottom 5%) and move them in five years to the top 25% in test scores by turning them over to charter operators. But the schools it has turned into charters have remained mired in the bottom 5-6%.