Using a headline to imply that charter schools as "a class" are "sub-par" does a great disservice to the educators, parents and students who support charters as a viable educational option, particularly for traditionally underserved students ("Sub-Par Options: Charter Schools as a Class Don't Measure Up," Jan. 27 editorial).
Undoubtedly, many schools fail to measure up to the expectations of their stakeholders. Whether public or private, magnet or charter, some parent, teacher, student, taxpayer or board member will find the school wanting in some way. What often gets lost in the debate about which educational options don't work is what educational options do work. By focusing on the failures, too often we overlook what we can learn from the successes. Ignoring the effective and innovative work done in charters is both unproductive and shortsighted and indicative of many of the problems that have beset traditional public education in the state.
Although the editorial makes use of the "apples-to-apples" metaphor, it fails to truly apply it to the situation. In other words, which 30 percent of charter schools reached AYP compared to which 50 percent of traditional public schools. Shall we compare public schools that serve a higher socioeconomic neighborhood to ones that do not? What about magnets that also attract a "more focused student body"? By truly analyzing the data in light of socioeconomic status and urban vs. suburban schools, parents and taxpayers can see for themselves how commonwealth charters have managed to be successful. For example, in the city of Pittsburgh, one must account for many factors when beginning to deconstruct the performance of its schools, including class and race.
I encourage everyone to view the PSSA data at the Pennsylvania Department of Education to decide for themselves how the charters that are in their specific neighborhoods are performing.
The writer is a teacher at City Charter High School and a student at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College of Public Management.