Hard evidence continues to debunk the widely circulated myth that charter schools in Detroit perform no better than traditional public schools. It certainly isn't true when it comes to scores on the SAT, the test used by many colleges to rank applicants.
The top-10 open-enrollment high schools in Detroit in terms of SAT scores are all charters. Even when the list is expanded to include magnet schools, seven of the top-10 high schools are charters.
That's a solid performance that suggests charters in Detroit are doing something right — or at least are doing something better than the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
It explains why Detroit parents have placed 50,000 of their children in charter schools, compared to the 44,890 who attend DPSCD.
The top-performing open-enrollment high school is the Detroit Edison Academy, where 11th-graders scored an average 918.3 on the test. The best comparable traditional school, Western International, ranked 11th, with an average 849.7 score.
When competitive-enrollment high schools are included, Cass Tech and Renaissance, both DPSCD schools, grab the No. 1 and 2 spots, and the Communicating Media and Arts school ranks No. 6.
The SAT measures basic skills, including reading and math, and is administered to all Michigan 11th-graders.
While charters and traditional schools argue over which are doing best in Detroit, the reality is that neither is doing good enough. Detroit students need both formats to improve.
The average SAT score statewide is 1,080 out of a possible 1,600. Neither the best open-enrollment traditional schools nor the best charters hit that average mark.
Still, the better performance by charters should be noted by Detroit's and Michigan's political leaders who have attempted to score points by demonizing charter schools.
They may not be as good as they should be, but parents recognize charters are often a better choice than the traditional public schools.
Charter schools are not responsible for the struggles of traditional public schools in Detroit. But they are a symptom of it. Parents tired of seeing their children cheated out of an education deserve another choice, and that's what charters give them.
Critics of charters have embraced the canard that they do no better than district schools, along with others, such as charters can hand-pick their students (they can't) or they don't have to take special education students (they do).
But the truth rests in the numbers.
REPRINTED FROM THE DETROIT NEWS