by Max Brantley
The University of Texas reports on a new study that says urban school districts in Texas do a better job of retaining black students than the privately operated charter schools, even some with more money to spend.
An analysis of Texas Education Agency data of average black dropout rates in Texas secondary schools shows that Houston, Dallas and Austin public schools outperform privately operated charter districts, with charter districts having three times the dropout rate reported in the comparable urban districts (4 percent versus the charters’ 13 percent).
“Leavers” are included in a separate category from dropouts, and that category addresses students who depart a school for any number of reasons, such as to pursue an education at a different institution.
Vasquez Heilig found that on average Austin, Dallas and Houston public schools also outperform all Texas privately operated charter districts when it comes to leavers, with charter schools reporting about twice as many leavers as comparable urban school districts.
“In urban areas where there’s typically a higher concentration of economically disadvantaged families, charter schools have given parents a free alternative to the ‘failing’ public school system,” says Vasquez Heilig.
“The thing is, prior to this there were no real examinations of just how successful the charter schools have been at retaining minority students and raising their school completion rates. While some charter districts have had pretty low attrition rates, it’s clear that there are districts with as many as 50 percent of their black students leaving and 90 percent dropping out.”
Interesting. Charter schools would undoubtedly say it's wrong to paint with a broad brush, that each school should be evaluated on its own merit. Which is exactly what conventional schools say — before being shouted down by the Billionaire Boys Club charter school lobby which insists that the entirety of public school districts, particularly the one in Little Rock, Ark., are without redeeeming qualities. This study doesn't attempt to measure quality of instruction. But it underscores a central point in the debate that charters don't like to talk about. Charters can dismiss, discourage, "out-counsel," disqualify by rigid rules and otherwise take steps to insure a student body relatively more ready to behave and learn than those in the conventional public school districts that must accept and hold all comers, no matter how little they desire the benefits. When charter schools reach the billionaires' ultimate goal — a charter seat for every child and parent who wants to be in one — you can imagine the remnant of U.S. public education. The dream of an egalitarian and universal system will be dead.