On Average, Charter Schools Are About Average

Here at the blog we’ve repeatedly touted the success of KIPP schools and urged the world to try harder to scale these programs up and not just use the difficulties of scaling as an excuse to dismiss them. But it should always be remembered that the average performance of charter schools is about the same as the average performance of traditional public schools.

In other words, there’s no magic in the water. Some public school systems perform much better than others. And some charter schools perform much better than others. I think it’s essential that jurisdictions—especially jurisdictions like Washington, DC where the public schools are far below average—allow new charters to start up and successful ones to franchise and expand. But it’s equally essential for charters that persistently underperform to be shut down. You let a 1,000 flowers bloom, and the average flower turns out pretty average. But if you cull the bottom 200 flowers, let the top 100 flowers replicate themselves, and then plant 100 new seeds you’ll be making progress over time.