STATE – While many are hailing charter schools as an alternative to what critics refer to as a “failing” public school system, an analysis of test data suggests that New Jersey charter schools may not be all that their supporters hope.
According to Rutgers university researcher Dr. Bruce Baker, charters perform at a level below most public schools. Though charter school advocates often point to a handful of exceptionally high-performing charter schools to bolster their case, Baker’s analysis reveals that charter schools, as a group, perform at a similar level to the traditional public schools in the communities where they are located — and well below the average public school in New Jersey.
“We have known for some time that there are high performing charter schools and others that struggle,” said NJEA president Barbara Keshishian. “For the record, NJEA is not opposed to charter schools. They are public schools and we have members in charter schools who are doing terrific work educating their students. But we need to be very cautious about opening the floodgates so that every charter school application is approved.
If we do not maintain high standards, we can expect to see the quality of charter schools decline, and that is not good for anyone, especially the students in those schools.
“Charter schools were supposed to be laboratories for innovation, where we could test new best practices that could be carried into other schools. We know that innovation is not limited to any one kind of school. We should be identifying our most successful schools across the state – charter schools, magnet schools, vocational schools and traditional public schools – and studying them to see where they are succeeding and how we can share that success with other schools across the state.”
New Jersey’s 68 charter schools serve approximately 20,000 students. Nearly 1.35 million students attend the state’s 2,500 traditional public schools.
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