New York charters don't cherry-pick students, report claims

Dive Brief:

  • New York City charter schools perform as well or better than traditional selective public schools, according to a an op-ed by Boston University associate professor and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters for City & State New York detailing the results of a report for the Manhattan Institute.

  • Winters argues that selective public schools, not charters, pick and choose their enrollees, and he found that charter schools performed as well as those selective schools in math and slightly worse on ELA exams. Both selective public schools and charter schools performed better than traditional public schools, Winters said.

  • Winters argues the report should curb critics who claim that charter schools "cream-skim," or select high-performing students to boost scores, saying that charter schools determine placement by lottery unlike selective public schools.

Dive Insight:

Charter schools nationwide are continuing to see sustained growth, with 16 school districts across the nation enrolling at least 30% of their student population in charter schools. New York City’s charter enrollment has nearly doubled in the past five years. The question of whether charters cherry-pick high-performing students has been ever-present in the debate over NYC charter schools. The Manhattan Institute report finds evidence to dispute the charge, though Winters’ own research indicates that charter schools have fewer special education students than neighborhood and selective public schools.

The improvements in test scores actually add to the trepidation critics feel about charters. In Harlem, for example, stark gaps in test scores between public and charter schools have led to continued divestment in public schools. Students who do not apply for a charter, or are not unsuccessful in a charter lottery, may find themselves at a school with fewer resources because its scores lag so dramatically behind charters. The cycle is reminiscent of the damage done to the schools when a tax base flees a district  property tax revenue plummets, which leaves less money to fix failing schools and makes property values plummet further.

Filed Under: K12 Policy & Regulation