The demographics of the students attending charter schools in Boston offer a rather interesting snapshot of the realities of school choice. Among other things, a study by a researcher from Boston College found that far fewer charter students qualify for meal subsidies compared to students in the public schools, they are much less likely to have a disability and all speak English as a first language. These students also score much higher on state standarized tests.
The report as published online didn’t speculate as to why charter students are more advantaged than the average student in Boston schools so I will. I think parents who choose to move their children from poor schools to public school alternatives – charters, voucher programs, private schools – are more interested and involved in their children’s education than other parents of kids in the same schools. They probably also have more time and resources to back up that interest than do other parents. I would bet their children already do better in school than the average Boston student.
Does that mean Boston should go ahead with a proposed moratorium on the formation of new charter schools? I don’t know. It’s possible that many parents in Boston don’t understand their options in terms of charter schools. Maybe there aren’t enough seats in charters to serve all the students who want them. Whatever the situation in Boston, however, I think we need to pay attention to this statement from the writer of the study:
Charter schools in Boston leave the district not just with fewer students, but also with an even greater concentration of the most challenging-to-teach students, with less and less money available to support teaching and learning for these students.
Please don’t continue to tell me that school choice programs by themselves will be good for public schools.