Test scores prove charter schools win again: Lift the cap

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Once again, New York City charter-school students blew away their competition at regular public schools on state reading- and math-proficiency exams for grades 3-8.

Per data compiled by the nonprofit NYC Charter School Center, the gap was especially large for black and Hispanic students:

* Black charter students outperformed their district-school counterparts by 19 points (59% testing proficient or better vs. 40%) in English and 27 points in math (61% vs. 34%).

* Hispanic charter scholars outdid their regular-public-school peers by 16 points (55% vs. 39%) in English and 25 points (61% vs. 36%) in math.

Overall, charter students scored seven points higher on the English exam, with 59% testing as proficient, vs. 52% at schools run by the city Department of Education.

On math, charter kids scored 13 points higher — 63% proficient or better, compared to 50% at district public schools.

As directed by the state Board of Regents, the State Education Department keeps dumbing down the tests to paper over pandemic-related learning loss, yet the fiddling can’t hide the fact that kids attending charter schools make greater advances than those stuck in DOE schools.

In 2018 (solidly pre-COVID), black and Hispanic students at charters outpaced DOE kids by about 25 percentage points in math proficiency and around 20 points in English.

No wonder the charter sector keeps growing: It now educates more than one in seven city public-school students.

Yes, charters are public schools, but run outside the DOE system, including the countless rules set in its labor-union contracts; that lets them have longer school days and years and adopt innovative approaches.

And charter admissions are by random lottery; 90% of enrollees are black and/or Hispanic, while 80% come from low-income families.

In short, New York’s 25-year “experiment” with charters has proved they work: Then-Gov. George Pataki’s insistence on allowing them is utterly vindicated.

Which leaves all the special interests that feed off the regular public school system desperate to choke off charter growth, with teacher-union power in particular muscling lawmakers into outright hostility.

So charters get thousands of dollars less per student in public money, while the Regents and SED block their efforts at innovation, such as seeking to recruit teachers outside the union-approved rules.

Yet these alternative public schools still outperform the DOE’s.

Crucially, state law (written back when charters were an experiment, not a proven success) caps the number of charters in the city and statewide — caps that the Legislature’s leaders, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, refuse to lift.

Even though allowing more charters is easily the best thing they could do for the lower-income minority kids they claim to care about.

Albany should do the right thing and lift the cap on charters so many more excellent ones can flourish in the city’s most-academically underserved communities.

All 213 Assembly members and state senators are up for election this coming year.

Anyone who cares about public education and providing real opportunity for poor and minority New York City children should take advantage, and demand the Legislature lift the cap in 2024.



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