Dube: Parents need to know more facts about charter schools

Dube: Parents need to know more facts about charter schools

Erika Sanzi’s idea of report cards for schools is a good start to clearing up some misconceptions that parents have about schools. Especially in the past year, the RICAS results news has painted with wide brushes over some key data that parents should be aware of.

This is especially true in the charter world where a handful of strong charter schools obscured that many charters performed quite poorly, even compared to their sending districts. There has been a narrative recently that charter automatically equals better and this is dishonest to the parents who are applying to charters and sending their children believing that it is a better education. All of R.I. schools need to do better; there is no doubt about that. However, when it comes to a parent deciding where a child will get a better academic experience, often the neighborhood public school is better than the charter and the data proves this.

Highlander Charter had 15 percent proficiency in English and 9 percent in math. This is lower than allelementary schools in Pawtucket (the lowest ELA score was 19 and the lowest math was 16) and significantly lower than many of those schools (Varieur: 45, 38. Potter-Burns: 41, 33. Curtis: 36, 38. Greene 29, 32).

International Charter sits directly next to Varieur and has a similar population, yet while Varieur had scores of 45 and 38, International had 32 and 22.

Looking at Providence shows the same results with schools like Highlander and Paul Cuffee (15, 19) drastically underperforming many Providence Public Schools (remember: these are the same schools that are struggling with management, crumbling school buildings, poor morale … we have read the stories and heard that the commissioner wouldn’t send her children to any of these schools). Remember those charter numbers from above and then here are three Providence Public Schools: Vartan: 49, 35. Reservoir: 42, 32. Kennedy: 35, 27.

These charter school parents and applicants have a right to know that, although their school has been given the freedom and flexibility to put more teachers in the classroom, extend the school day, and set many other parameters including parent contracts, and uniforms, much of this is window dressing.

Their neighborhood school with a strong teachers’ union and experienced educators in the classroom is often a better academic choice. I applaud Erika’s suggestion that we look deeper and are more honest with parents.

Parents who apply to a charter school should be presented with these numbers to make informed decisions that go beyond broad strokes in the news.

Erin Dube

Pawtucket School Committee deputy chairperson