Thursday, December 20

City-chartered schools getting grades get very good ones

When the progress reports first came out, many, including Regent Merryl Tisch, were not happy that charter schools did not get grades. Chancellor Klein said he didn't have the authority or the data to issue grades for charter schools. But now the city has issued grades for more than a dozen of the schools it chartered, and the results are, unsurprisingly, favorable to the charters. Of the charter grades, 79 percent were A's and B's (compared with 62 percent of other schools), and only one school, Peninsula Preparatory Academy in Queens, received an F. KIPP Academy was among the five schools with A's — guess the staff retreat in the Carribbean paid off!

The charter progress reports are shorter than those for regular public schools, and "environment" is measured solely by attendance. Because of this, the reports clearly note that "it would be inaccurate to make a direct comparison to the grades assigned to non-charter DOE public schools" — but that hasn't stopped the press. The Sun proclaims, "Charter Schools Win Top Grades: Surpass Traditional Public Schools on Progress Reports," and notes that two city-chartered schools had higher numerical grades than any other schools in the city.

For equity's sake, I'm glad the charters are getting grades, but in reality, how much will they matter to the hundreds of families waiting for spaces to open up in charter schools that are often more disciplined and academically oriented than neighborhood schools? The charter schools' strong showing does little to dispel the notion that lots of test prep will equal a high grade in the city's accountability system. As Julie Trott, head of Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School, which got one of the two highest grades in the city, told the Sun, "We just basically are super, super serious about academics and don't play at all." Parents don't need a grade to tell them whether that's an environment they want for their child.

Still, given how little information is available about charter schools that isn't generated by the schools themselves, charter school reports strike me as more useful than those for regular public schools. We'll soon have more information; according to the Sun, the state has agreed to have all charter schools receive grades next year.

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