Robert Maranto’s Rebuttal

My colleague Paul Hewitt offers a fine essay about education ideals, but where are the kids? Traditional public schools do well with traditional kids but do not serve everyone.


The dropout-flunkout-expulsion rate is 25 percent nationally and nearly 40 percent in my hometown (Baltimore, Md.), according to America’s Promise Alliance. Baltimore’s public schools work for some students, but too few graduate, and many who do are not well-prepared.

Maranto HeadshotRobert Maranto

Further, we have to acknowledge that middle-class families already choose their schools through housing markets, magnet schools (e.g., Michelle Obama’s parents), private schools (e.g., President Obama) or student transfers. Charter schools simply offer poor folks choices most of us already have.

Two empirical matters Paul does not get quite right. First, there is little statistical evidence that charters as a whole are more segregated than traditional public schools (see

Second, he wisely cites the CREDO report comparing charter and traditional public schools but misses some key findings. As its author says, CREDO includes many students in their first year in a charter. These rookies suffer learning declines, but second- and third-year charter students enjoy greater gains than traditional public school peers ( Even so, CREDO finds charter elementary and middle schools outperform traditional public schools, but charter high schools do so much worse that the sector as a whole looks bad by comparison. That’s probably because most charter high schools are small schools offering a second (or third) chance for kids rejected by other public schools.

If we want more kids (and teachers) learning and happy, we need both charter schools and traditional public schools becuase different folks need different strokes.