School Choice: Who Gets Left Behind?

Photography by Bill Cramer.

How can we fix low-performing schools?

It’s been the question on educators’ minds for decades, and solutions have been elusive. However, since the passage of No Child Left Behind almost a decade ago, the pressure to improve student achievement has only intensified at the federal level and in the eyes of the public.

One solution touted is charter schools, which receive taxpayer dollars and have greater flexibility in staffing, curriculum, and fundraising while facing the same accountability as traditional public schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has urged states with caps on charters to raise them, and many have complied in an effort to access the much-desired Race to the Top funds.

The broader debate about charters is playing out in the public sphere. A media blitz that started this fall-- from the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” to NBC’s “Education Nation,” to Oprah Winfrey’s two shows on school reform-- has all but anointed charters as the future (perhaps the only viable future) for public education.

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