(by Joseph E. Ocando)
“A society that puts equality – in the sense of equality of outcome – ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom.” - Milton Friedman: “Free to Choose”
“I’ve consistently said, we need to support charter schools.” – Barack Obama
Caroline Hoxby’s studies at Harvard demonstrate that charter school students are more proficient in reading and math than public school students. Critics state that the results are useful but incomplete. Ironically, the advantage of charter schools (typically having much less numbers of students than their public school neighbors) makes acquiring statistically significant data difficult.
A direct comparision of the charter school to public school student involves many variables. Parental involvement, socio-economic status, cultural barriers, past performances on assessments, length of time at either a charter or public school, access to enrichment programs and district specific policies are but a few. From a scientific standpoint ideally there should be only one variable between the two populations: the one in question, math and reading proficiency. Larger sample sizes would dilute the potential offsetting impact of any one of these outside variables and increase confidence levels in the data ascertained.
Indeed the number of charters has grown to more than 4000 serving 1.2 million students. A recent study by Kevin Booker and Ron Zimmer shows that charter school students are 7-15% more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than their public school counterparts. In addition they state that charters do not generally draw top students away from traditional public schools.
While teaching middle school science in an under-resourced under-privileged area I collected mass amounts of data on a regular basis. This primarily involved efficient and appropriate facilitation of innovative tools kids could use on their own unique paths of self-discovery. Cognitively, my strategies heavily centered around inquiry-based learning to develop critical thinking. No matter the particular external variable or how many of them there were, the results consistently and repeatedly pointed to only one outcome: all children can learn.