Conservative journal: Charter schools aren’t fulfilling promise

It really says something when the conservative Indiana Policy Review publishes a lengthy article that essentially declares Indiana’s charter school experiment a failure.

Especially when the article’s author, Timothy P. Ehrgott, is a longtime school choice advocate who helped found one of the state’s first charter schools and was director of the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, a privately funded voucher program.

But Ehrgott looks at the data and concludes that, after 12 years, Indiana charter schools aren’t doing what their advocates promised: producing better results with greater efficiency than public schools. Judging by the state’s A-F school grading system, he shows that public schools perform better than charter schools, even adjusting for location and for student poverty and race/ethnicity.

The question almost asks itself: Why fund charter schools as alternatives, when the existing schools are doing not only as well, but, as we’ve seen, much better?

Indeed, the results presented here are so lop-sided as to call into question not only any increase in the number or funding of charter schools, but perhaps even the wisdom of continuing to fund the majority of charter schools in our state.

Let’s be honest. If a medical study of a drug produced these kinds of results, with many more adverse outcomes than positive ones, the project would be shut down.

Ehrgott’s analysis is similar to one that I did two months ago, but he goes into considerably more detail; he also adds information on the history and philosophy of charter schools. He hits on the high points of the article in a newspaper column distributed by the Indiana Policy Review Foundation.

Despite his disappointment, Ehrgott isn’t actually ready to end the charter school experiment – or maybe he just recognizes that isn’t going to happen.

Instead he says Indiana authorities should get serious about accountability: Shut down charter schools that get Ds and Fs, intervene with those that get Cs and put an end to “authorizer shopping.” He also suggests offering more ways for charter schools to pay for facilities and letting their students ride to and from school on public school buses.