A 20-Year Lesson: Evidence from America and Britain shows that independence for schools works
FOR decades too many educationalists have succumbed to the tyranny of low expectations, at least when it comes to those at the bottom of the heap. The assumption has been that the poor, often black, children living in some of the world’s biggest and richest cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London face too many challenges to learn. There was little hope that school could make any difference to their future unless the problem of poverty could first be “solved”, which it couldn’t.
Such attitudes consigned whole generations to the scrapheap. But 20 years ago, in St Paul, Minnesota, the first of America’s charter schools started a revolution. There are now 5,600 of them. They are publicly funded, but largely independent of the local educational bureaucracies and the teachers’ unions that live in unhealthy symbiosis with them.
Charter schools are controversial, for three reasons. They represent an “experiment” or “privatisation”. They largely bypass the unions. And their results are mixed. In some states—Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri—the results of charter pupils in maths and English are significantly better than those of pupils in traditional public schools. In others—Arizona and Ohio—they have done badly