For all their federal support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases are worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests, reports the New York Times. Last year one of the most comprehensive studies, by researchers from Stanford University, found that fewer than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered an equivalent education, and more than a third, 37 percent, were “significantly worse.” Although “charter schools have become a rallying cry for education reformers,” the report, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, warned, “this study reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well” as students in traditional schools. Researchers for this study and others pointed to a successful minority of charter schools—numbering perhaps in the hundreds—as the ones around which celebrities and philanthropists rally, energized by their narrowing of the achievement gap between poor minority students and white students. But with the Obama administration offering the most favorable climate yet for charter schools, the challenge of reproducing high-flying schools is giving even some advocates pause. Academically ambitious leaders of the school-choice movement have come to a hard recognition: Raising student achievement for poor urban children is enormously difficult and often expensive…

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staff and wire services reports