- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We should look into why public schools are not given the same resources and autonomy as charter public schools but are held to the same expectations.

If Deborah Simmons’ Aug. 30 article, “Charter schools finding niches” (Page 1), was intended to offer news on the practice of education and educational reform, it fell short.

First, Ms. Simmons speculates about which charter school might produce the next Sarah Palin or the next Benjamin O. Davis Jr. without acknowledging that Mrs. Palin graduated from Wasilla High School in Alaska and Mr. Davis graduated from Central High School in Cleveland. Both are public schools.

Second, Ms. Simmons touts specialization, “the latest trend in charter schools,” as the next wave of reform and ignores the existence, history and remarkable success of many specialized public schools, including the three original specialized public schools in New York City, which focus on science, math, engineering and technology. Stuyvesant High School, founded in 1904, boasts among its alumni four Nobel laureates and my wife, a graduate of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Bronx High School of Science was ranked fourth in the 2008 U.S. News & World Report list of America’s “Gold-Medal” public and private high schools. And according to the New York City Schools’ annual report, 98 percent of Brooklyn Technical High School’s graduates are routinely accepted to four-year colleges, with the 2007 graduating class being offered more than $1.2 million in scholarships and grants.

I am a proud co-founder of the Urban Assembly School for the Urban Environment, a sixth-through-12th-grade school in Brooklyn. In reality, what the charter schools and Ms. Simmons are touting as new has been done in New York City alone for more than 100 years.

Ms. Simmons does not question the claims of the executive director of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools “that public charters are doing a great deal in closing the achievement gap and offering options that public schools don’t.” That charters offer more options than public schools is more fiction than fact. The research and data simply do not support “the clear claims of success” of public charter schools. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (Credo), in its 2009 charter school performance project in 16 states nationwide found a wide variation of performance among charter schools. It concluded that while 17 percent of them offer superior educational opportunities, nearly half of them have very similar results to local public school options, and 37 percent deliver results that are significantly worse than in public schools.

MICHAEL S. BROWNE

Doctor of education candidate

Howard University

Washington

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