New York City’s decision to close a C-rated charter school has sparked a national conversation about what kind of performance should be expected of charter schools.
The school had been previously warned about its performance.
Some observers say the closure of Peninsula Preparatory Charter School is a signal charters need to do more. Is it enough for charter schools to be average, or should they be better than district schools?
From the Times story:
But charter school advocates and leaders believe that by closing Peninsula Prep, the city is issuing a warning to schools that it is no longer sufficient to be as good as or slightly better than traditional public schools; they have to be exemplars…
By the city’s standards, Peninsula was not the worst charter school, nor was it the best. Last year, 46 percent of Peninsula’s students passed the state English exam, a better performance than 47 other city charters. On the math exam, 60 percent of its students scored as proficient. For the last four years, it received C’s on its annual progress reports. It was, by definition, in the middle of the herd. But not on Far Rockaway, where those scores were high enough for Peninsula Prep to outperform 9 of the 10 elementary schools its students are zoned for.
New York City has closed about 4 percent of its charters since first approving the publicly funded but privately run schools in 1999. Nationally about 15 percent of charters close, according to a Center for Education Reform study.
But research show most charter schools close because of financial issues and not performance issues. That could change if charters are expected to outperform traditional district schools.
The Times also has a piece from James Merriman, the CEO of the New York Charter School Center, who argues more should be expected.
But even more fundamentally, after having seven years to get it right, the school didn’t meet the promises it made when it opened, which was to have at least three-quarters of its children at proficient levels in both math and reading.
Bottom line: If the city’s Department of Education were to renew the school, it would be saying that it is enough for a school to be no worse than surrounding schools or to succeed with less than half its students.
If that is the standard for charter schools, then it is not clear why we need them in the first place or why we would think that charter schools would be able to spur improvements in traditional public schools. Far from being exemplars, they would simply become just another group of mediocre institutions.
Florida has a record of closing troubled schools, though usually because of financial reasons. That includes the state’s first charter school in Miami, Liberty Charter School, which was closed in 2008 because of money problems.
More than 60 of charter schools have been closed in Florida, according to state data.
Florida charter school leaders favor legislation that makes it easier for the best-performing schools to expand. They also said there needs to be consequences for charter schools which don’t fulfill their contracts.
Should charters be held to a higher standard? Even if nearby schools are worse or no better? What happens to students once a charter closes?