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Charter Schools Chalk Up Successes

August 02, 2003

Re "Charter Schools: A Steep Learning Curve Awaits," Opinion, July 27: Howard Blume states that charter schools often have problems with test scores. Is this a problem? Test scores are based on tests, which are based on "state-approved" curriculum standards, which are enforced through one-size-fits-all instruction and daily practice in how to fill in bubbles or answer multiple-choice questions.

Imagine what would happen if teachers did not have to spend time on teaching testing strategies: They might be able to do some art, music, physical education or even science experiments.

On the other hand, charter school teachers and parents choose academically solid curriculum that is based on their learners -- not a test. And their busy school day includes activities that regular schools don't have time for. It's too bad that charter schools don't have 20 more minutes every day: Then they could drill test strategies and do better on the tests.

Who really has the problem?

Judith M. Seki

San Gabriel


Blume missed a few essential conclusions reported by the Rand study. His biased, anti-charter school propaganda compares apples and oranges -- a minority of home-based charter schools to site-based regular public schools. The study actually concentrates on the vast majority (70%) of site-based start-up charter schools that, according to this same study, are consistently outperforming regular public schools with similar demographics. And they are doing so with less money and resources.

Blume also fails to report that the study confirmed that "charter schools tend to enroll those most underserved by the conventional public school system ... a greater percentage of low-income students, a higher percentage of students with academic problems and, on a percentage basis, twice as many African American students are enrolled in charter schools as compared to regular public schools." And these start-up charter schools are doing a better job with more difficult students and with less money and support.

I don't know which Rand study Blume was reading, but the one I read clearly indicates that charter schools are doing great things and could be doing even better if the public, press and politicians would give them the support they need. Perhaps a steep learning curve awaits Mr. Blume.

David J. Eagle

Founder, New West

Charter Middle School

Los Angeles

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