View all Articles
Commentary By Marcus A. Winters

For Minorities, a Charter-School Boost

Education, Culture Pre K-12, Race

Here’s yet another possible reason to back charter schools: It seems that minority students who attend them get into the city’s top high schools at a far higher rate than other kids.

A recent review of data provided by the city’s Department of Education reveals that African-American charter-school students were 60 percent more likely than their traditional public-school counterparts to earn a seat in one of New York City’s “specialized” high schools last year.

For Hispanics, the rate of acceptance was twice as high for charter kids as for those from traditional schools.

The city has eight highly selective public high schools that diligent eighth graders dream of attending. A diploma from a school with a national reputation like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science or Brooklyn Tech can open the door to prestigious universities and professional success.

But admission to these schools depends entirely on an applicant’s score on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. Because of the well-documented achievement gap on this and other common standardized tests, African-American and Hispanic eighth graders get in to these schools at much lower rates than their Asian and white counterparts.

Though African-Americans and Hispanics make up about 71 percent of all city eighth-graders, these two groups made up only 17 percent of the freshman classes at the specialized high schools in 2009.

The table at right shows the number of eighth-grade students offered a seat in one of New York’s specialized high schools for the 2009 school year, broken down by race/ethnicity and by whether the student attended a traditional public school or a charter.

It is true, as the chart shows, that a higher percentage of traditional-school eighth graders (6.6 percent) than charter-school eighth graders (3 percent) got into specialized high schools. But this is driven by the white and Asian populations at the traditional schools, not by black or Hispanic kids. Indeed, nearly a quarter of Asian-American eighth graders in the city’s traditional schools were offered admission to an elite high school in 2009.

Of course, the numbers provided here are only descriptive. From this data alone, we can’t state exactly the extent to which attending a charter school versus a traditional school in itself affects acceptance rates at the top high schools.

Nonetheless, the figures surely deserve further consideration. Charter schools might well increase minority access to the city’s esteemed high schools by offering a higher quality elementary- and middle-school education than is available in the traditional public-school system.

Recent research suggests that on average students benefit substantially from attending one of the city’s charters. At the same time, about 95 percent of Gotham’s charter-school eighth graders last year were African-American or Hispanic. The new data provide additional evidence that charters offer minority students a high quality elementary- and middle-school education -- and that this may well help them as they move up the educational ladder.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post

This piece originally appeared in New York Post