The latest word(s) on charter schools

The charter-school movement has yet to produce the data to answer the key question: Do students achieve more in charter schools than they would in traditional public schools? But recent studies signal where the decade-old movement could be heading:

*"The State of Charter Schools 2000," a national study by the US Department of Education, found waiting lists at 70 percent of the 1,700 charter schools. Most charters serve diverse students in relatively small schools. (Report is available online at

*"Charter Schools in Action" (Princeton University Press), by Chester Finn Jr., Bruno Manno, and Gregg Vanourek is the first close look at what may be the most original contribution of the charter-school movement: "bulldozing the walls that surround vital information about school performance."

*"When Schools Compete: a Cautionary Tale" (Brookings Institution Press), by Edward Fiske and Helen Ladd, warns that competition doesn't always produce good results for minorities. New Zealand's 10-year experiment with something like a national system of charter schools shows that minorities can wind up more concentrated in bad schools.

*"The Charter School Challenge" (Brookings Institution Press), by Bryan Hassel, is an activist's guide to how state charter laws can promote or severely limit charter growth.

*"The Great School Debate: Choice, Vouchers, and Charters" (Earlbaum), by Thomas Good and Jennifer Braden, is a critical review of recent research on charter schools. The authors contend that charter schools spend less on classroom instruction than traditional public schools and have not pioneered new approaches to teaching.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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