Response: The NYT’s Bizarre Take-out Of Detroit Charter Schools

Response: The NYT’s Bizarre Take-out of Detroit Charter Schools

Upon reading Kate Zernike’s recent article in The New York Times titled "A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift," I immediately felt like I was reading an opinion piece. Isn’t that where we generally find articles that advocate for a particular viewpoint, with bits of truth buried beneath distortions, exaggerations, and misrepresentations?

We should expect more from professional journalists. The 115,000 school children of Detroit, along with their families, educators, administrators, and education activists, deserve a more balanced portrayal than what the Times has provided.

Let’s face it. Educating students is a difficult task, particularly in urban cities. We are all searching for examples of successful educational practices while also addressing the needs of students who are not receiving adequate education.

It is fair to say that the challenges mentioned regarding educating students in Detroit’s charter schools are equally applicable, if not more so, to the Detroit Public School (DPS) system. However, the Times’ article suggests that the presence of charter schools and school choice is the cause of poor academic performance in the city. On the contrary, charter schools serve as options for parents who are fed up with the long-standing failures and corruption within DPS. Adults, motivated by greed and corruption, have been stealing the futures of thousands of school children for many years.

Contrary to what the Times claims, the state has the legal authority (MCL 380.1280c and 380.507) to shut down failing schools, whether they are traditional public schools or charter schools. And they have exercised this authority, albeit partially. Over 100 charter schools have closed for various reasons, including inadequate service to students. However, the state has not closed a single traditional public school due to academic failure.

The Times’ assertion that charter schools in Detroit are experiencing "unfettered growth" is also misleading. In reality, there are only five more charter schools in Detroit today than in 2011 when the legislature removed the cap on charter schools. While more than five schools have opened since then, the Times conveniently ignores the fact that almost as many have closed. This brings us to the fundamental promise of school choice: parents, not zip codes, should be able to determine which schools are best for their children.

The Times distorts the academic performance of charter school students when comparing them to DPS students. The truth is that, on average, charter school students in Detroit perform better on state standardized tests across all grades and subjects than their DPS counterparts.

Furthermore, the article overlooks the significant findings from Stanford University’s 2015 CREDO study. This comprehensive study confirms that students in Detroit’s charter schools are gaining an additional three months of learning per year compared to students in DPS. Over the course of a few years, this substantial improvement greatly benefits the academic achievement of these students.

The author also claims that Detroit charter schools use selective admissions, which is strictly prohibited by federal law. However, it is worth noting that 20 percent of DPS "choice" schools do utilize testing results, minimum GPA requirements, interviews, and letters of recommendation to selectively admit higher-performing students.

In conclusion, this article lacks objectivity and balance, particularly when considering that it exclusively quotes critics of charter schools without offering a single quote from a charter school supporter who can speak to the benefits of charters in Detroit.

Ultimately, parents have the right to choose the best educational option for their children, and they deserve accurate information about school performance to make informed choices. It is unfortunate that parents in Detroit are not receiving this accurate information from The New York Times.

Disclosure: The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation provides funding for the Great Lakes Education Project and .


  • ernestfarley

    Ernest is a 26-year-old education blogger and teacher who writes about a variety of topics related to teaching and learning. He has a passion for helping others learn and grow, and believes that education should be accessible to everyone. Ernest is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and he has taught high school students in the United States, Mexico, and Chile.