By Ben Velderman
BOSTON – Massachusetts’ charter school students are outperforming their public school peers by such a wide margin that pair of Democratic lawmakers are intensifying their push to lift the state’s charter school cap.
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes finds that charter school students in The Bay State receive 1.5 months of additional learning in reading and 2.5 months of extra learning in math during the course of an academic year, compared with their counterparts in government-run schools.
The differences among Boston’s K-12 students are even more striking.
“Charter students in Boston gain an additional 12 months in reading and 13 months in math per school year compared to their TPS [traditional public school] counterparts,” the Stanford study reports.
The findings are so conclusive that two Democratic lawmakers – state Sen. Barry Finegold and state Rep. Russell Holmes – want to lift the state’s cap on how many charter schools are allowed to set up shop in lower-performing districts, reports EducationNews.org.
The Boston Globe reports that unless the cap is lifted, “no more charter schools will be allowed to open in (Boston, Holyoke, and Lawrence), even though waiting lists for charter schools across the state have grown to 45,000 students.”
Judging from the student achievement numbers and the length of the charter school waiting list, getting rid of the cap should be a no-brainer. But that’s not the case in teacher union-friendly Massachusetts.
The state’s teacher unions enjoy favored status among many Democratic lawmakers, which explains why some pundits have suggested that state Sen. Finegold is “throw(ing) away his political future” by authoring legislation to lift the charter cap.
Even Gov. Deval Patrick, a charter school supporter and Democrat, “has displayed no interest” in the legislation, writes Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh.
Lehigh notes that charter critics will attack the legislation – and the new Stanford study – by making their usual argument that charter students do better in school because they have more involved parents.
“In that light, it’s important to note that the new study went to great methodological lengths to evaluate student results in a way that isolates the impact of their schools,” Lehigh writes.
“The real reason charter students are showing big gains is obvious: They get significantly more school time. A 2010 research report concluded that the average Boston charter has an 8.2 hour day, while the average Boston traditional public school has only a 6.1 hour day.
That means over the course of a regular school year, charter students are spending the equivalent of an extra 62 days in school. And that’s before you add in the longer school years that many charters have,” Lehigh concludes.
Paul Grogan, president of the philanthropic Boston Foundation, characterized opposition to charter schools this way: “When you have something that is generating this much success, it borders on lunacy to continue to limit it.”