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Howard Blume has written a very informative and fair account of the study of charters in Los Angeles conducted by Bruce Fuller and other researchers at Berkeley.
The study, which is linked in the article, says that students in charters begin with higher test scores and improve faster than their peers in district public schools.
The implications, I believe, are that those who enroll in charters start off ahead academically, and their academic gains are increased by peer effects. If a student is enrolled in a school with other higher-performing students–and if the students with behavioral problems and the unmotivated students are not present–the students learn faster.
What are the lessons for public schools? Remove the students with behavioral problems; remove the students who are unmotivated; remove the students with severe disabilities; remove the students with low test scores; limit the number of English language learners to those who are nearly fluent. That’s a formula for success. In a school where everyone is motivated, well-behaved, and ready to learn, students get higher test scores.
But what should we do with all those kids who were removed and excluded? If Eli Broad has his way, half the children in Los Angeles will be in charter schools with strong peer cultures, and the rest will be left behind in squalid public schools. Are they his problem too? Why not just give the entire enrollment of Los Angeles Unified School District to Eli, and let him take responsibility for all the children, not just the likeliest to succeed?
Take the challenge, Eli. Think big. Can you do it? Take responsibility for all the children, not just the ones you want. If you aren’t willing to do that, stick to funding art and medical research. You don’t tell artists how to paint or doctors how to perform surgery, do you? Stick to what you know.