Report says charter schools fail to make improvements

By Lisa Snedeker, The Associated Press
Wednesday July 17, 2002

LAS VEGAS — The majority of the nation’s charter schools have failed to improve student achievement, a report released Wednesday by the American Federation of Teachers concludes. 

Proponents of the nation’s 2,119 charter schools immediately criticized the report, saying its data was flawed. 

The AFT report studied the decade-long movement of publicly funded schools that are operated by community-based groups, private business or groups of educators and parents. It concluded that policy-makers should not expand charter schools until more evidence of their effectiveness and viability is presented. 

“While some are successful and should be used as models, most charter schools don’t improve student achievement, aren’t innovative and are less accountable than the public schools,” AFT president Sandra Feldman said at the teachers union convention in Las Vegas. 

That’s not true in Nevada, said Jill Wells, principal of Reno’s I Can Do Anything Charter High School, the state’s first charter school established in 1998. 

“We’re held as accountable and we have the same tests as any other school in the Washoe County School District,” Wells said. “It’s a luxury to pick the curriculum you want to pick and to have an 18-1 student-teacher ratio, but we are incredibly accountable.” 

The report said Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Texas have open-ended charter school laws combined with minimal public oversight. 

“The basic promise of less regulation for more accountability has been broken,” Feldman said. 

Gary Larson, communications director for the California Network of Educational Charters, said the AFT report is flawed. 

Larson said there were 358 charter schools in California in October 2001 as opposed to the report’s 350. And he said only 33 charter schools had closed in the state since it adopted the charter school law in 1992, rather than the 45 the report stated.