Selected readings on US charter schools
In the 2012-13 school year, 51,083 Detroit children, or 51 percent of the city’s school-age population, attended charter schools, making Detroit only one of two cities in the nation with more than half of its public school students attending charter schools.
New Orleans, which took over its public school system after Hurricane Katrina, topped the report’s list with 79 percent of students attending charter schools.
The milestone in Detroit comes after a decade of rapid market share growth for charter schools. In 2011-12, 41 percent of Detroit schoolchildren attended charters; eight years ago, just 18 percent did.
Students such as Unique Bailey are fueling the surge in charter school enrollment.
Irving and Tanisha Bailey sent their daughter to a Detroit charter school starting in 2011, after the teen attended grades 1-8 at Detroit Public Schools. Large class sizes at DPS were affecting Unique’s work habits in school, Tanisha Bailey said.
Unique began attending the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit in ninth grade. Today, the 16-year-old junior has a 4.0 grade-point average and is making plans for college.
“She worked real hard at it,” her mother said.
“It’s their education. I wish I … went to college. It’s the parents who have to make the right choices for our children — not just pick the school at the corner because it’s convenient.”
The alliance’s report examined market share in cities with school districts with more than 10,000 students.
Researchers said the data show charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of public education in the United States.
In 42 states and the District of Columbia, 2.3 million students, or nearly 5 percent of public school students, attend charter schools.
Detroit has 65 charter schools. Statewide, 298 charter schools educate more than 135,000 students.
Detroit ranked fourth among cities with the most charter school students. The Los Angeles Unified School District ranked first with more than 120,000 students attending charter schools. New York City was second with 58,353 and the Philadelphia school district was third with 55,031.
Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the state charter school association, said the data show parents continue to seek the best educational options for their children.
“Charter schools have more oversight and accountability than any other public schools, and the ultimate accountability is to parents. The fact that so many of them are choosing charter schools is proof that their children are thriving in that environment. Every child deserves a quality education in a quality school,” Quisenberry said.
Research by Stanford University’s CREDO Institute, released in January, showed the average charter school student in Michigan gained an additional two months of learning every year in reading and math. In Detroit, the study showed, it’s an additional three months of learning every year.
“You can’t fool parents,” Quisenberry said.
“They don’t care who runs the school, but they know when their child is in the right school.”
Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, said her nonprofit’s analysis of charter schools in Michigan showed 73 percent of them performed below the average Michigan public school in 2012.
Arellano wants lawmakers to enact tough regulations for charter operators that would prevent further expansion if a school is failing for three years.
“The Michigan charter quality issue is a Detroit charter quality issue. We have a school quality problem across the board,” Arellano said.
“We have over-relied on choice alone as a school improvement strategy for low-income kids.”
According to MISchooldata.org, the state’s school data website, Cesar Chavez Academy Intermediate School, a Detroit charter school operated by the Leona Group, performed worse than DPS for Latino third- and fourth-graders in reading and math on the 2012 MEAP, said Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, director of policy and research at the Education Trust-Midwest.
“We clearly have an education performance crisis in both our Detroit public schools and charter schools,” Lenhoff said.
“There’s a quality problem across the board. We have to start producing schools that provide dramatically better learning for all Michigan students, especially in Detroit.”
After decades of steep enrollment declines, DPS officials have tried to increase the district’s market share by launching aggressive enrollment campaigns.
DPS increased its share of the market this fall “in the face of some strong competition,” district spokesman Steve Wasko said.
“We are confident that by continuing to address parent and student needs, and offering the full range of programs that only DPS can provide, that new positive trajectory will continue.”
DPS peaked in the 1950s with 300,000 students. Its most recent K-12 enrollment was 48,923.
Source: The Detroit News – by Jennifer Chambers