Response to March 26 op-ed “These NC charter schools show how to succeed with low-income students”
Many of us had great hopes at the beginning of the charter school movement. Charters were to be incubators of innovation. Charter school students were to achieve at higher levels than their counterparts in traditional public schools.
Unfortunately, the promise has not been met. Frank Martin, Chairman of Sugar Creek Charter recently claimed that Sugar Creek performed “well above” comparable Mecklenburg County schools.Sugar Creek Charter received the same letter grade as West Charlotte and Garinger High Schools. If you look closely at the NC Report Cards, you’ll see that both of these Charlotte Mecklenburg schools had higher growth scores than Sugar Creek Charter. At the lower grade levels, Sugar Creek Charter’s performance was also matched by many high poverty CMS elementary schools.
Do all high poverty Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools hit that target? No. We have a lot of work to do. Do all charter schools? No. Of the nine or so high poverty charter schools in Mecklenburg County, eight received a D or F on their NC Report Card.
CMS lacks the flexibility afforded charter schools, but CMS still matches achievement outcomes of charter schools while offering an array of support services, career and technical training options, language programs, magnet school choices, special needs offerings and other benefits to students and families that charter schools do not. Unlike charter schools, CMS schools accept students throughout the school year, even if they arrive during the final days of the school year. That includes students leaving their charter schools (even though the money remains at the charter).
Charters aren’t magic. Sugar Creek Charter School’s level of achievement is commendable. But it does not show a better path forward than CMS.