School choice should be the foundation of any successful school system. This includes learning options of all kinds, including online learning, private schools, charter schools, homeschooling and more.
While alternative learning options provide much-needed options for students, these programs should not be exempt from performance reviews.
In a surprise move, the Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, school board announced on Feb. 21 that it plans to close two charter high school campuses this year – the Mirta Ramirez Computer Science High School, run by ASPIRA, and the Dusable Leadership Academy, run by the Betty Shabazz International Charter School.
Most charter high schools have outperformed their traditional public school counterparts. In fact, charter schools held the top nine spots for 2012 ACT scores for open-enrollment, non-selective public high schools in Chicago. During the past five years, top charter schools’ ACT scores have increased 17 percent while traditional public schools have gained only 5 percent.
Still, there are a handful of charter schools that have not raised student achievement.
Marta Ramirez is one of them. It has performed poorly on almost every measure during the past three years. Nearly 0 percent of its students exceeded state standards on the Prairie State Achievement, or PSAE, exam. Its average ACT score was 15.6 – more than 5 points below what ACT considers college-ready. Only 38 percent of graduates enrolled in college.
Dusable performed even worse. None of its students exceed state standards on the PSAE exam. Its average ACT score was 15.2. Its one-year dropout rate is just 4 percentage points higher than the CPS average of 6.7 percent.
Consistently poor-performing schools should be closed, regardless of whether they are public or charter. This includes schools like Marta Ramirez and Dusable, which have failed to raise student achievement since they opened.
Continuing to provide them with money is a waste of taxpayer dollars that would be better utilized by charter schools that have proven results, like Chicago International Charter Schools and the Noble Network of Charter Schools.
Why do these poor-performing schools continue to survive despite failing to improve student achievement? The lack of a competitive market in education.
Creating a system that allows parents to choose from multiple schools, not just their neighborhood school and a handful of charter schools, would likely force schools like Marta Ramirez and Dusable to reform or go out of business.
Working toward this sort of system should be the aim of Illinois policymakers.
Josh Dwyer is Director of Education Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute