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More than half of the students who enroll in Boston's charter high schools do not graduate from them, according to a new study (PDF) released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
The MTA calls the schools "dropout factories" that post artificially high college-placement rates because so many students don't make it through to graduation.
Commissioner for Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester acknowledged that the report raised important questions about the level of attrition in charter schools, but said he felt it characterized the schools unfairly.
"While there's a lot of attrition, that doesn't mean that students are dropping out," Chester said. "In fact, I think it means that many of them are transferring to other schools."
Marc Kenen, executive director of of the Massachusetts Public Charter School Association, said that many students who enroll in charter schools drop out because they want to avoid the schools' rigorous requirements.
"A basic problem that we have in Boston is where charter schools are setting higher standards for their students than the Boston public school system," Kenen said. "You can graduate from a Boston public school with a D, and you need a C in a charter school."
"This is creating a system where some schools are going back to the district if it seems like they're going to be falling between that C and a D," he added.
But MTA President Anne Wass suggested charter schools aren't doing enough to hold on to those students.
"Are the commonwealth charter schools truly public schools, or are they really publicly-funded private schools that have found ways to avoid educating our children with the greatest needs?" Wass asked.
Kenen suggested the solution is for the charter schools and public schools to collaborate. "We need to work with the Boston Public School system so that there aren't easy routes away from high standards which should be applied to everybody," he said.
Jess Bidgood is a WBUR intern.
This program aired on September 16, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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