Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post - FILE: Pre-kindergarten children attend classes at LEAP Academy Early Childhood School at KIPP DC. KIPP is a national network of public charter schools. (By Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post )

A new report on charter schools says that charter school enrollment around the country has grown 80 percent over the past five years — but represents only 5 percent of  total public school enrollment (a statistic that may seem surprising given all of the attention that school reformers give to charters).

The report, which is  issued by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools,” says that urban areas have seen the most charter school growth in the 2012-13 school year. The district with the most charter school students is the Los Angeles Unified School District,  with 121,000 out of a total enrollment of 656,000, for a “market share” of 18 percent. (Yes, students are now referred to as “market shares.”) The New Orleans Recovery School District, however, has the highest percentage of students in charter schools — 79 percent.

The report portrays the growth of charter school enrollment glowingly:

This rapid rate of growth should come as no surprise. For more than 20 years, the public charter school movement has been a leader in innovation and education reform. By unleashing an environment of creativity in states and communities, public charter schools have demonstrated that all children are capable of achieving high standards and college and career readiness.

It doesn’t mention that studies show that charter schools on average don’t do any better than traditional public schools. In the New Orleans Recovery School District — which is often cited by school reformers as a huge success — charter schools have been struggling for years  — and, this year, received a letter grade of “C” by the state under a new way of rating schools that appear to make it easier to get higher grades than it was in years passed.  The “C” was a significant improvement from previous years. Blogger Mercedes Schneider wrote in this Huffington Post piece:

On October 23, 2013, [Louisiana Schools Superintendent] John White released the long-awaited, capriciously calculated 2013 Louisiana school performance scores (SPS) and letter grades. In this “official” LDOE [Louisiana Department of Education] graphic, he attempts to sell the public on the “new,” “simpler” SPS/ letter grade formula and “easy to understand scale”, all the while maintaining that this latest attempt to label Louisiana education is “aligned with higher standards to ensure postsecondary success.” Now, there is no evidence that such a statement has been tested, but this is the era of Untested Yet Boldly Proclaimed Reformer Smoke, so, it must be true.

In well-trained reformer fashion, John White is careful not to openly release any raw data by which third parties might examine formulas and verify calculations. In fact, the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge recently ruled that John White gets to withhold or release LDOE data at will.

Nevertheless, in this 2013 spreadsheet of SPS scores, I found information useful to the public in understanding that the “new” 2013 SPS and letter grades are not “rigorous.” Indeed, use of the 2013 calculations makes the Recovery School District (RSD) appear to have made gains that are nothing more than artifacts of a new scale and new calculations.


Here are three charts with statistics on charter school enrollment across the county.



(National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

(National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)

(National Alliance for Public Charter Schools)