Should charter schools be accountable for the same results as public schools?
- In 1992, Sweden adopted a nationwide universal voucher program in which the money follows the student to public or “free schools,” which are comparable to U.S. charter schools, according to the Hechinger Report.
- In 2000, Swedish students performed above average on the Programme for International Assessment, but by 2012, they were well below other countries in reading, math, and science, a situation that critics blame on the loose accountability measures in place for “free schools.”
- Though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not yet made much headway on expanding charter schools and voucher programs in the U.S., some education leaders worry that if she is more successful in this expansion, her approach to charter school accountability will create a situation similar to Sweden’s.
Charter schools still remain controversial even after decades on America's educational scene. While the schools receive public funding, they don’t have to follow all of the same rules as public schools because they are supposed to represent an innovative alternative to traditional education. Some studies suggest that, overall, students in charter schools fare about the same as those in public schools. However, other studies suggest that charters do a better job educating underserved student populations, especially in urban areas.
One original intent of charter schools was to offer parents a publicly funded choice in education. Stimulating public schools to perform better because of increased competition is another goal. However, they cannot offer a comparable choice if comparable accountability measures are not in place. Many states require that charter schools report data on the state’s accountability dashboards in the same way that public schools are required. However, other states do not require this, even though it makes sense if they are receiving public funding. In this way, parents can make school choice decisions based on comparable information and schools can see whether charter schools offer any real competition in their area.