"...Charter schools deserve credit for changing the discussion in Los Angeles about poor and minority students. No longer is it acceptable to assume that students from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot be high achievers. The new ideas that charter schools brought into the educational mix, and the competition they posed in attracting students, played a significant role in the improvement of L.A. Unified's traditional public schools.
No one should deny that some ...... concerns about charter schools are justified. Many of L.A. Unified's charters are strong performers, but some aren't very good. In general, the schools have not enrolled a fair share of special-education students. Some parents have complained that their children who did poorly in charters were "counseled out" — or simply thrown out — by administrators who suggested they return to traditional public schools. That helped the charters' test scores look better, but it didn't help struggling students. The district has done too little to investigate such practices; it also should conduct a meaningful examination of charter high schools' four-year graduation rates, which aren't always impressive. And the school board has at times been too willing to renew the charters of schools with subpar test scores.
At first, applicants hoping to open publicly funded but independently operated charter schools had to fight for every new campus, opposed by school board members who were strong union allies. But as charters showed remarkable progress with disadvantaged and minority students who had been failing in regular public schools, appreciation for them increased. New laws limited the grounds on which the school board could reject charter applications, and the election of a more reform-oriented board brought the number of students attending charter schools to nearly 100,000, about twice as many as in the New York City school system....."