New York City recently released official progress reports for the city’s 1,230 schools, including measures of how each school compares with other schools that have similar students. The reports provide yet more proof that charter schools–which outperformed traditional public schools by a wide margin–are working. Eight of the top 11 elementary and middle schools by student performance are charters, and four of those charters are in Harlem.
What might be most notable about the city’s findings, however, is that Harlem’s experiment with school choice has improved educational outcomes not just for the select few (some 10,500 currently) who win lotteries to attend charter schools. Although critics claim that charter schools succeed at the expense of district-run schools–because, the argument goes, charters “cherry pick” students, leaving behind those who are hardest to educate–Harlem’s results prove otherwise.
Of New York City’s 32 school districts, three serve students in Harlem. Suppose we treat all of Harlem’s charter and district schools as a single district (while separating out the Upper West Side, which shares a district with Harlem). In 2006, the third-graders in this Harlem district were near the bottom of the citywide heap–28th in math and 26th in English. Today, this overall group of Harlem students ranks 16th in math and 18th in English.