Today’s Education System is “morally illegitimate”

Here is yet another piece of evidence that the rapid expansion of charters is in the best interests of the America’s children.

The Harlem Miracle

That’s why I was startled when I received an e-mail message from Roland Fryer, a meticulous Harvard economist. It included this sentence: “The attached study has changed my life as a scientist.”

Fryer and his colleague Will Dobbie have just finished a rigorous assessment of the charter schools operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone. They compared students in these schools to students in New York City as a whole and to comparable students who entered the lottery to get into the Harlem Children’s Zone schools,but weren’t selected.

They found that the Harlem Children’s Zone schools produced “enormous” gains. The typical student entered the charter middle school, Promise Academy, in sixth grade and scored in the 39th percentile among New York City students in math. By the eighth grade, the typical student in the school was in the 74th percentile. The typical student entered the school scoring in the 39th percentile in English Language Arts (verbal ability). By eighth grade, the typical student was in the 53rd percentile.

Forgive some academic jargon, but the most common education reform ideas — reducing class size, raising teacher pay, enrolling kids in Head Start — produce gains of about 0.1 or 0.2 or 0.3 standard deviations. If you study policy, those are the sorts of improvements you live with every day. Promise Academy produced gains of 1.3 and 1.4 standard deviations. That’s off the charts. In math, Promise Academy eliminated the achievement gap between its black students and the city average for white students.

Let me repeat that. It eliminated the black-white achievement gap. “The results changed my life as a researcher because I am no longer interested in marginal changes,” Fryer wrote in a subsequent e-mail. What Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone’s founder and president, has done is “the equivalent of curing cancer for these kids. It’s amazing. It should be celebrated. But it almost doesn’t matter if we stop there. We don’t have a way to replicate his cure, and we need one since so many of our kids are dying — literally and figuratively.”

Every legislator who votes for a charter cap is morally illegitimate. They are corrupt, and they are voting for corrupt interests when they cap charters. These people lack moral legitimacy, and they need to be told this to their face.

When you read the study referenced above, you start to realize that busting the cap on charters is a moral imperative on the order of the civil rights movement. Let me take that one step further, to stand in the way of more charters is immoral, and it is time to start to calling into question the moral legitimacy of any politician standing in the way of rapid charterization.

That goes double and triple for the organizations whose interests they are defending. The politicians, unions, and entities that are lobbying and voting for capping charters are the moral equivalent of Birmingham police sicking dogs and using water cannons on civil rights marchers, and it is time some one told them so.