David Leonhardt’s November 4 New York Times op-ed, “Schools that work,” features charter school research and commentary by Susan Dynarski, co-director of the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative. The op-ed concerns a controversial ballot initiative that Massachusetts citizens will vote on next Tuesday—determining whether to expand the state’s cap on charter schools.
“The briefest summary is this: Many charter schools fail to live up to their promise, but one type has repeatedly shown impressive results,” writes Leonhardt, referring to urban charter schools. “The gains are large enough that some of Boston’s charters, despite enrolling mostly lower-income students, have test scores that resemble those of upper-middle-class public schools.”
Leonhardt describes Dynarski as someone who “sees some merit on both sides.” “A University of Michigan professor (and Times contributor), Dynarski is a proudly progressive former union organizer,” he writes, who has confessed to agonizing over "being on the opposite side of an issue as some of her friends and usual allies.”
Dynarski, who grew up in a working-class suburb of Boston, who is a first-generation college student, who has done extensive research on charters in Massachusetts and Michigan, and whose research focuses on educational disparities and how to overcome them, ultimately supports the expansion of Massachusetts' charters.
“The gains to children in Massachusetts charters are enormous. They are larger than any I have seen in my career,” she writes. “To me, it is immoral to deny children a better education because charters don’t meet some voters’ ideal of what a public school should be. Children don’t live in the long term. They need us to deliver now.”
Susan Dynarski is a professor of education, economics, and public policy. She is co-founder and co-director of the Ford School's Education Policy Initiative, which engages in rigorous, applied research to improve educational outcomes.