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Romesh Ratnesar

Charter Schools Are Victims of Their Own Success

They’ve improved the U.S. public-school system — but still need to be held accountable.

Spread the word.

Spread the word.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America

Advocates like to say that charter schools punch above their weight: Compared with better-funded, established public schools, high-performing charters produce students who learn more, do better on standardized tests, and are more likely to graduate from college. Charter schools are also disproportionately polarizing. Despite accounting for just 7% of America’s public schools, they have become the system’s biggest source of conflict.

The head of the largest teachers’ union says that the charter-school industry “want[s] to create horrible public schools.” The NAACP has called for a “moratorium” on new charters. Legislators in California, which has the country’s largest number of charter schools, are considering bills to curtail their growth. According to a survey by the journal Education Next, only 44% of the public supports the formation of charter schools, down 10 points in the last five years.