Education Letter to the Editor

Do Other Factors Produce Charter School Success?

February 09, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

Regarding “Debate Over Charters Continues as Research Finds Gains in N.Y.C.” (Jan. 20, 2010):

The apparent superiority of New York City charter schools might be linked to their unique characteristics related to New York state requirements and local practices. Some of us who teach at graduate schools in the city, however, have been speculating that there may be another factor, one related to recent hiring practices of the city education department.

Many of our graduate students, both prospective and experienced teachers, are attracted to the challenges of teaching in New York City public schools. Unfortunately, with master’s degrees in hand, they increasingly find themselves closed out of the public school job market because of hiring priorities given to Teaching Fellows and Teach For America participants, who learn to teach while being paid as “teachers of record” in high-needs schools. Hence, many of our graduates wanting to teach in urban public schools find the only jobs available to them are at the city’s charter schools.

Anecdotally, it seems that new teachers at these high-needs public schools are more likely to be novices learning on the job, while charter schools in the city are employing new and experienced fully certified teachers. Researchers might explore whether this phenomenon, supported by a robust supply of certified teachers, particularly at the elementary level, is another factor that might be unique to New York City charter schools.

Karen Zumwalt

Evenden Professor of Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as Do Other Factors Produce Charter School Success?