New York Daily News
Recent test results show real winners in charter debate
By Stanley Crouch
The important fight that Mayor Bloomberg has waged against the United Federation of Teachers, the city teachers union, and its ally, the NAACP, over charter schools was resoundingly won by the champions of reform in court. But the real victory came when state test scores were released last week. These clearly show that charters - particularly the most exceptional ones - are winning the fight for our children's futures.
First came The Wall Street Journal, noting happily that "the most relentlessly attacked charter schools - Eva Moskowitz's Harlem Success academies - have outperformed their public school peers, often by a wide margin."
At the city's public schools on average, 49% of third, fourth and fifth graders passed the English language arts exam. At Harlem Success academies, the number was 78%.
At the city's public schools on average, 60% of third, fourth and fifth graders were proficient in math. At Harlem Success, the number was 94%.
And those students - the ones leaping over the achievement bar - are overwhelmingly black and low-income.
It wasn't only Moskowitz's schools. A WNYC report noted, "New York City charters schools once again performed better than the citywide average on this year's state exams," with the gains especially evident in math.
That should shut up all of those who think that the charter schools fight is but another aspect of the attempts by elected Republicans to curtail unions. That's not at all what this is about. It is about making sure we're not left behind by India and China - and the rest of the world. The charters cannot be blamed for doing better in this respect than the unions have.
Does that mean these kids are on the road to sure success? Not for certain, unfortunately.
If Mayor Bloomberg is to be criticized about his handling of problems that disproportionately effect minority youth, that criticism should come after a close look at his initiative to assist black and Latino young men in finding employment, staying out of jail and living productive lives. Both Bloomberg and billionaire George Soros will give $30 million to the multipronged effort.
Besides the general problems facing the economy, these black and Latino young men are all too often little more than pawns in a game run by a so-called "hip- hop culture" that has been under attack from writers and thinkers for some time now. They are the ones who are too old to be saved by a good charter school. It is unclear if Bloomberg or Soros can save them, either. As the charters have shown, money is nothing unless you have a smart, tough approach that doesn't take any excuses.
What troubles these young men on every human level has been made very clear by Thomas Chatterton Williams in his book about hip-hop's horrific influence, even on the black middle class. It is called "Losing My Cool: How a Father's Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture," and it should be read by every educator and social service worker in the inner city.
Williams shows that all of our good intentions cannot defeat a rapacious culture based on greed, exploitation and the destruction of young lives for the name of profit. At the very least, we have our charters fighting the good fight.
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