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What Johnny Learned

A journey to the land of charter schools

12:00 AM, Oct 15, 2010 • By MATT PATTERSON
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The difference? New Heights, Brand writes, is a charter school that deliberately fosters a “culture of high expectations” for both students and teachers. It features fewer but longer class periods, and longer school days. It pays teachers “up to ten percent” more than other public schools, but teachers who underperform may be asked to leave. Students are required to wear uniforms. And New Heights somehow does all of this while receiving fewer tax dollars than regular public schools. It can do this because, as Principal Stacy Winnitt told Brand, they make do with fewer administrators: “We aren’t top heavy,” she tells him.

Charter schools like New Heights tend to infuriate the education establishment, and nothing frustrates a liberal so much as excellence. As the New York Post reported this past May: “Charter-school kids outperformed traditional public-school kids in three of the four grades tested in science and social studies last year--often by leaps and bounds.” The Post further reported:

According to the city's Department of Education, charter-school eighth-graders bested their public-school peers by 19 percentage points in social studies and by nearly 18 percentage points in science. Additionally, more than 90 percent of charter-school fourth-graders aced last year's state science exams, compared with 80.3 percent of fourth-graders at traditional public schools.

That students and teachers can be held accountable, and that accountability can result in safer, better schools is scary to educators and politicians drenched in decades of teachers’ union propaganda. But that charter schools can outperform public schools, and do it with less taxpayers’ money and less central control, belies their worldview.


Matt Patterson is a contributor to Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation.

The Neighbor’s Kid: A Cross-Country Journey In Search of What Education Means to Americans  by Philip Brand, Capital Research Center, 180pp., $18

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