In February 2002, Joanne Jacobs wrote a feature article for Reason on Edison Charter Academy's battle for survival with the San Francisco school board. She also wrote about how student test scores, which had been going up, dropped in 2001. The article subtitle said it all: "Unlike district schools, Edison Charter must succeed to survive."
The Edison Charter Academy could be a poster child for charter schools across the nation: If they do not succeed; they are shut down. This is the great strength of the charter school movement--real accountability and real results. Today, Edison schools lives up to that standard in San Francisco and honors charter schools everywhere.
As Joanne Jacobs writes at her website:
Edison Charter Academy soars in SF
"It was the worst elementary school in San Francisco when Edison Schools Inc. took over four years ago. For two years as a charter school, scores went up. But the numbers fell sharply in spring 2001, as the SF school board launched a campaign to revoke the charter. Edison's critics gloated.
Today, Edison Charter Academy's Parent Teacher Council announced the results of the spring 2002 state tests: Scores are up in every subject and in every grade, exceeding the state targets by a large margin in all but one of 16 categories.
One graph follows the class of 2002: As second graders, only 14 percent scored at or above grade level in reading, 26 percent in math; by the end of fifth grade, 43 percent were at or above grade level in reading, 48 percent in math.
The spring 2002 scores for second graders start where the older students ended: 45 percent of younger students read at grade level or above; 47 percent in math.
The school — now chartered by the state board of education — tested 100 percent of students in second through fifth grade."
- Threatened by Success: One charter schools fight against the education establishment
- Watching the Numbers: Unlike district schools, Edison Charter must succeed to survive.
Contrast, Edison's strategy for raising student achievement with this failing public school in Florida reported in the Orlando Sentinel:
In Florida administrators and teachers at one failing elementary school tell students that "F" grades are positive.
"For Jeremy Hunter, the F-grade given to Mollie E. Ray Elementary this past spring does not mean the school is failing.
The 11-year-old fifth-grader said it stands for fantastic or fun. . . .
Clad in navy shirts with "F = Fantastic" printed on the back, Mollie Ray teachers said they plan to reinforce that message throughout the year as they work to improve test scores. The northwest Orlando school is among 10 statewide that received failing grades for the second time in four years."
You will notice that no school board is moving to shut down Mollie E. Ray Elementary. When the power of positive thinking does not lead to test score improvements, students will continue to waste away in their "fun" and "fantastic" elementary school.
When it comes to accountability, charter schools win hands down.
Lisa Snell is director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation. She formerly taught speech courses at California State University, Fullerton.