Charter schools are all the rage these days. The public is increasingly smitten with them – in this year’s Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup education poll, 68% of respondents said they support charter schools, up from 42% in 2000 – but few people know what charters are, reports Time. When the education journal Education Next asked Americans some basic questions this summer about charter schools, such as whether they can charge tuition or hold religious services, fewer than 1 in 5 respondents knew the correct answer (which was no in both cases). The confusion is so pervasive that more than half of the teachers surveyed couldn’t answer the questions correctly either. Scenes of charter lotteries are currently being used to wrenching effect in two documentaries, Waiting for ‘Superman’ and The Lottery, but the process of randomly selecting which kids get a better shot at life in high-performing charters has a troubling echo in the policy world: In too many states, charter schools are treated in a similarly random way. The mantra from charter-school opponents is that charters are no better, on average, than other public schools. The implication is that consequently there is little to be learned from charters and less reason to have them…

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staff and wire services reports