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[Susan notes: The New York Times article showing that public schools outperform charters on standardized tests provoked a variety of letters.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Charter Schools Trail in Results, U.S. Data Reveals" (front page, Aug. 17):

Thanks to careful sifting through publicly available data, we now know the truth: far from achieving miracles, charter schools trail in results on standardized tests.

If the results had been positive, the Education Department would doubtless have heralded them. Across the policy spectrum, the pattern of the administration is all too clear: Call for evidence-based results, tout them when supportive, hide them when not, spin them when possible.

There is much to admire in the charter movement. But except for ideological reasons, there has never been a good argument for why these schools should - as a group - outperform traditional public or independent schools. After all, they draw on the same population of students, parents and teachers.

Quality schools must be constructed - one at a time.

Howard Gardner

Cambridge, Mass.

The writer is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

To the Editor:

"Charter Schools Trail in Results, U.S. Data Reveals" (front page, Aug. 17) paints an unduly negative portrait of one of the bright spots on the public school horizon.

The vast majority of charter schools serve students with academic problems who are ill served by traditional public schools. Comparing them to students in public schools mixes apples and oranges.

Given that students often arrive at charter schools on a downward academic trajectory, the only valid measure is their progress over time, for which early findings show great promise.

We should encourage creative institutions that are willing to take a risk on children who are largely written off by traditional public schools.

Clint Bolick

President and General Counsel

Alliance for School Choice


To the Editor:

There is no credible evidence that deregulation of public education leads to higher student achievement. A system of relatively unregulated charter schools may serve a few children in the short term, but in the long term undermines the very purpose of public education.

A shared public culture, combined with academic excellence, is the foundational belief on which to build a vibrant system of public schools.

Peter W. Cookson Jr.

Portland, Ore.

The writer is dean of the Graduate School of Education at Lewis & Clark College.

To the Editor:

Many parents choose charter schools to escape the value placed on standardized tests in public schools, but we are using those same tests to judge how well these schools are faring. Since many charter schools offer alternative choices that veer away from the teach-to-the-test mentality of public schools, the children in those schools, and the schools themselves, should be assessed accordingly.

Lumping all charter schools together and declaring failure hurts more children than it helps.

Standardized tests pigeonhole students and schools. It is time to stop allowing them to control students, teachers and the system.

Elizabeth Volkmann

Northampton, Mass.

To the Editor:

Deep inside your Aug. 17 front-page article about charter schools is the most tragic part. In Los Angeles, 10,000 students on 60 campuses are without a school just two weeks before the school year begins because of the for-profit California Charter Academy's financial problems.

When was the last time your local public school announced in late August that it wasn't opening and you had better find another school?

There is a reason we shouldn't turn over essential public services to the free market.

Max Page

Amherst, Mass.

multiple authors

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