Do Charter Schools Improve K-12 Education?


President-elect Donald Trump has nominated a charter school advocate from Michigan, Betsy DeVos, to be his Secretary of Education. This raises the obvious question, do charter schools improve K-12 education? A recent study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) suggests that they do in general, although very unevenly.

As summarized and elaborated upon by the Economist, here are the results:

  • Charter schools work well for low-income children in cities. In 41 urban areas (see map), students learned 40 more days of math and 28 more days of reading every year on average. Black and Hispanic children performed especially well. Where they have worked well such as in Boston, New York City and Washington D.C., students make gains up to 100 days per year.
  • One lesson learned is that autonomy needs to be coupled with accountability. When charter schools expand with little oversight, as in Arizona, results can be worse than in regular schools.
  • A second lesson is that leadership matters. Business practices such as performance tracking and incentives achieve better test scores. A successful charter organization such as KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) opens new school only when it spots a leader capable of running it.
  • A third lesson is how to scale up the type of education provided by the best charters. These have five qualities: frequent feedback for teachers, tutoring, longer school days and terms, effective use of data to track student progress, and a relentless focus on academic achievement.

Conclusion. Charter schools are a valuable state and local educational option. Many charters are succeeding very well and the factors which lead to success are increasingly well understood. At the very least the competition created by charter schools leads to better performance by public schools. The answer to the question in the title is yes!

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Trump’s Cabinet Choices Bode Well for the Economy


President-elect Donald Trump made faster economic growth one of his major campaign themes and the direction of Trumponomics is already beginning to take shape.  His major cabinet choices so far auger well for the fundamental changes which are needed to speed up economic growth:

  • Steven Mnuchin for Treasury. Mr. Mnuchin says that “the number one problem with Dodd-Frank is that it is way too complicated and cuts back lending.” Making loans is “the engine of growth to small- and medium-sized businesses.”  He also believes that 3% – 4% GDP growth is possible with tax and regulatory reform.
  • Tom Price for Health and Human Services. Mr. Price has some excellent ideas for getting American healthcare straightened out, in order to make it more consumer-oriented as well as less costly for individuals, businesses and the government (i.e. the taxpayers).
  • Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Pruitt is a lawyer who has fought EPA overreach as the Attorney General of Oklahoma. Mr. Pruitt will end up improving the environment because “he will make sure that the rules issued by the EPA are rooted in law and thus won’t be overturned in court.”
  • Betsy DeVos for Education. Ms. DeVos, a school reformer from Michigan, is a strong supporter of vouchers and charter schools. K-12 school reform is absolutely essential to better prepare low-income and minority students for the high tech and global economy which awaits them after graduation.
  • General James Mattis for Defense and Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General are also excellent choices for strengthening America’s national security and moral fabric.

Conclusion. I have been advocating fundamental changes in fiscal and economic policy for years now and, thanks to the election of Donald Trump, things are moving rapidly in this direction. It is a good time to be optimistic about the future of our country.

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