By Marion Gabl
Educators and legislators across the country celebrated National School Choice Week from January 22-28 in all 50 states with over 400 events including lectures, documentary showings, and even group twitter happy hours. Over 200 organizations partnered with National School Choice Week, which on its website champions “effective education options for every student” as its mission. The cause garners support from charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling groups, among others who value educational options.
But School Choice Week comes at a bitter time for the students, parents, and teachers of an elementary charter school in Far Rockaway, Queens: Peninsula Preparatory Academy, founded in 2004, was informed just this month that New York City’s charter school office has denied its charter renewal.
The school was passing with only a ‘C’ grade on its progress report; however, it also outperformed the vast majority of elementary schools to which, upon its closure, former Peninsula Prep students will be directed. The New York Times reports:
“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.”
Policymakers and state officials must consider the consequences of judging charter schools more harshly than their public counterparts. Mr. Obama urged in this week’s SOTU that we “Grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”
The president’s remarks should apply to charter schools as well as to traditional public schools if we are truly to engage in education reform. Charter schools like Peninsula Prep deserve the “flexibility” that the President advocates, especially so if they already outperform surrounding public schools.
Apart from the philosophical case for charter schools – that they provide citizens with freedom in educating their children – sometimes (and as it turns out, overwhelmingly more often than not) – they do outperform public schools. If that matter is too difficult for New York City officials to see, it may not be for the children in District 27, who will likely be herded to lower-performing schools in the coming year.
Marion Gabl is an intern for The Washington Times Editorial/Opinon Page