Our growing charter sector is telling us something. What’s it saying?

The academic performance of Kansas City’s public charter schools doesn’t matter.

Did I get your attention?

Of course I don’t really believe that statement.  Academic performance matters tremendously. ALL public schools – charter and KCPS – should be held to high performance standards, academically and otherwise. And they should be held to the same high standards.

But I kicked off my post with this statement to make a point about the growth of Kansas City’s charter sector. Because it’s actually telling us something important, if we’re willing to listen.

Charter sector growth in Kansas City, as we’ve now discussed in multiple posts, has been pretty consistent over time. 42% of all public school students within our district boundaries – 10,774 of 25,360 students – are now enrolled in KC charter schools. Kindergarten enrollment in charter schools will likely exceed KCPS kindergarten enrollment in the next few years.

This growth has persisted despite the fact that, academically, our charter sector hasn’t performed much better than KCPS schools. In 2014-2015, only 10 of 20 KC charter schools outperformed KCPS aggregate MAP scores in both English Language Arts (32.4% proficient and above) and Math (22% proficient and above).

Yet our charter sector is still growing.

So while it’s tempting to discount KC charter schools based on academic performance alone, by doing so we’re invalidating the choices that thousands of families have made about what’s best for their children.

Rather than telling the families of +10,000 Kansas City students they’re wrong for choosing charter schools – which is effectively what we’re doing when we blame charters for our central school district’s struggles – we’d be better off making this growing constituency of parents part of the conversation on our school district’s future.

What can we learn from these parents? Why did they choose a charter school for their child? And what are they revealing about their preferences for public schooling in our district – their likes, their dislikes, their needs – through the choices they’re making?

Put another way, what might Kansas City families be telling us about the public school system they want, versus the public school system we have now?


In my next post I’ll offer some of my own thoughts about the growth of our charter school market, and what it’s telling us.

But really I’d like to hear what YOU think.

Email me at settheschoolsfree[at]gmail[dot]com. I can share your observations under your name or, if you prefer, anonymously. I look forward to hearing from you.

Up next:  Some insights from our growing charter school sector



2 thoughts on “Our growing charter sector is telling us something. What’s it saying?”

  1. Rebecca, thank you for your thoughts and wisdom——you really make me think beyond the KCPS Board Meetings, Faxon Elementary, and the FPA Ivanhoe Neighborhood. I need valid facts and reasonable thinking when I say and believe “Children are the Conscience of our Community”

    1. Betty, I appreciate your feedback and am so happy to hear that you find the analysis on Set the Schools Free to be helpful. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *