Commentary: Ravitch Off Base on Charter Schools
As mentioned in a previous post, Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute, in his fine obituary for Jaime Escalante, wrote that the best way to preserve Escalante’s legacy is to “understand why our education system destroyed rather than amplified his success—and then fix it.” Coulson then goes on and accurately presents the success of today’s charter schools as the prime example of promoting innovation and creativity in today’s public schools. Coulson contrasts the burgeoning success of charter networks such as KIPP with the failure of centralized education and its obsolete and out of touch standards.
Despite the astounding success rate of charter schools relative to centralized public schools, not everyone is convinced, and some are ardently resistant. Diane Ravitch, in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, laments the failure of No Child Left Behind and dismisses charter schools as unsuccessful in reaching their goals. Instead, Ravitch promotes a new set of standards to regulate public school teachers and administrators. Though well-intentioned, Ravitch’s position is wrong.
First, the Cato Institute offers a couple of strong rebuttals to the notion of further centralized standards. Regarding her dubious claim about charter schools, Ms. Ravitch must be oblivious to the well-documented revitalization of education in New Orleans thanks to innovative charter school programs. The solution is not to impose a new set of standards, but to encourage innovative and progressive teaching methods, reward good teachers, and fire bad teachers.
Ms. Ravitch complains that the disparity between public schools students and charter schools students is emblematic of their failure. In fact, it is testament that not enough young children are in charter schools. The facts are ineluctable; charter schools work and are the best bet for public education.