Blog: The Educated Reporter

Leaving charters behind in Chicago.

Linda Lutton of WBEZ and Sarah Karp of Catalyst Chicago collaborated on a project about the student attrition rate at the city’s charter schools, which is higher than at traditional schools. It is a worthwhile listen and read, given how often people talk about charters “pushing out” or “counseling out” students but rarely have substantive reporting behind those comments.

It’s not that the schools portrayed in these pieces actively encouraged these kids to leave (although at least parent quoted seems to be saying that). Higher standards certainly played a part. It’s hard to imagine how to hold on to a student who says, after leaving her charter for a regular school, “I like it a lot better. It’s so much easier. I don’t have to worry about stupid things. … And I don’t be waking up every morning like, ‘Oh my God, I gotta go to school.’”

The most surprising element, to me, was how much money it costs to fall short at some of these charter schools—fines for breaking rules, relatively high fees for makeup courses. I suppose it’s easy for a family with no money to just say “to hell with that.” The underlying question is whether the school operators want to make that conclusion more difficult to come to.