Let me be more specific.
When I say "models for school reform," I mean the reform of American universal public education. Although charter schools are technically "public" schools, they operate outside the system. That means, unlike traditional public schools, they are under no obligation to serve all students.
And they don't. Despite lotteries and laws that prohibit selective enrollment by charter schools, "creaming," as the skimming off of better students is called, is built into the charter school application process. Even to enter a lottery, parents must take the time and effort to "apply." They must show an interest in enrolling their child in an alternative to the assigned neighborhood school. That in itself narrows the range of students likely to enroll in a charter school.
How likely is it that children with parents who don't give a damn will become charter school students?
In a comment to the PPS Equity post "Charters and PPS", Rose cites other hindrances:
As does Ken:
Nationally, the problem of charter school "creaming" is more apparent. Two parent school activists from the San Francisco Bay area have written that charter schools "exclude the most challenging students" (and here):
"That is, parents who care about their kids' education enough to make the effort to learn about and request a school are the ones whose kids attend charter schools. Parents who don't have it together ... do not choose charter schools. Thus their kids -- ...likely to be the most challenged and challenging -- are left in the traditional public schools."
In their second post they say that it's "...amply documented that charter schools all over the country... dramatically underserve special education students... ."
That's certainly true here in Portland.
Initial enrollment is only part of the problem with limiting the range of students in charter schools. There's also the issue of "attrition."
Caroline Grannan, one of the Bay Area activists, claims that the nationally renowned Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools, particularly the nine operating in California, lose a good chunk of their students each year, presumably their most problematic students:
Grannan, citing an SRI International study, repeats the claim here:
So there you have it --"creaming" and attrition should be reasons enough to discount charter schools as models for reform.
Someone please tell Barack Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, both big fans of charter schools.