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Targeted districts have reason to be wary of more charter schools

Your May 13 editorial “Where district schools falter, state should add more charters” names a number of school districts where it is believed that the current cap should be removed. According to the editorial, “the most telling testimony came from . . . Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes” study of Massachusetts charter schools. The editorial notes in passing that “charter foes . . . complain that charters don’t educate as large a percentage of English Language Learners, though that’s starting to change.”

It is certainly true that charter schools do not enroll ELL populations comparable to those of traditional school districts. However, what the Stanford study also shows is that charters do significantly worse in teaching ELL students how to read when compared with traditional school districts.

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On Page 27 of the study you cite there is a graph showing reading and math performance of ELLs in charter schools and traditional district schools. On Page 28 the study authors report their finding that in charter schools there are “significantly lower gains in reading” for ELL students when compared with traditional school districts.

This is of particular concern because many of the districts apparently targeted for charter expansion are precisely those districts that have large ELL student populations, such as Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Brockton, Worcester, Lowell, and Chelsea.

The data don’t support the conclusion that better education for ELLs in Massachusetts schools requires more and more charters. The “most telling” evidence in favor of charter expansion shows just the opposite.

Roger Rice

Executive director

Multicultural Education,

Training & Advocacy Inc.


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