Thousands of Charter Schools Perform Poorly

“Performance-based accountability” is a hackneyed, Skinnerian, neoliberal buzz-phrase often repeated dogmatically by charter school promoters in order to falsely claim that privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are more accountable and higher-performing than public schools.

But it is becoming clearer to everyone with each passing day that charter school promoters have long vastly over-promised and under-delivered, while rapidly enriching themselves at the expense of students, parents, the public, the economy, and the national interest.

Extensive research, including research funded by billionaire charter school supporters, has consistently demonstrated that poor performance remains widespread in the scandal-ridden low-transparency charter school sector that intensifies segregation.

Year after year, thousands of privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools, which have been around nearly 30 years, deliver unimpressive results.

Not surprisingly, several thousand charter schools have failed and closed since 1991. At this time, about 150-200 charter schools close each year, leaving thousands of families—mostly African Americans and Latinx—betrayed and angry.

Below, in chronological order, is a tiny sample of the many studies exposing poor charter school performance in many states:

Many other studies could be cited. In addition, serious, reliable, and seasoned bloggers everywhere are also collecting, archiving, discussing, and sharing extensive evidence on the failures of charter schools on many other fronts, not just widespread poor test performance.

It is worth noting that both public schools and privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are victims of expensive, curriculum-narrowing, time-consuming, high-stakes standardized tests produced by large for-profit corporations that have no idea what a human-centered education looks like. Such corporations are retrogressive and harmful in many ways; they are not concerned with the growth and well-being of children, or the future of society.

The research on how damaging and unsound these expensive corporate tests are is robust, unassailable, and constantly-growing.

High-stakes standardized testing has nothing to do with learning, growth, joy, or serving a modern society and economy. Unsound assessments do not prepare young people for life. High-stakes standardized testing does not even rest on a scientific conception of measurement; it is discredited psychometric pseudo-science through and through.

Still, with these important caveats in mind, thousands of charter schools, even when they cherry-pick students with impunity, dodge tests and ratings, and massage or misreport test scores, perform worse on these flawed, top-down, widely-rejected corporate tests than public schools.

Editorial Cartoon — Michigan Radio

There is no justification for the existence, let alone expansion, of privately-operated nonprofit and for-profit contract schools that are rife with fraud and endless other problems.

  1. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes is funded by many billionaires (e.g., the Gates Foundation) who have long-supported pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools. []
Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.