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Bill Gates Wants Charters Held Accountable

It's a fact that Bill Gates is bullish on charter schools. The foundation that bears he and his wife's name sinks $200 million into primary and secondary education every year, says a recent AP report. Charter schools receive a significant amount of that cash.

And like any businessman, Gates wants these experimental education centers held accountable. The effective ones should serve as examples for other schools (including traditional public schools). The ineffective ones should be shuttered.


In a speech he gave yesterday at the National Charter Schools Conference in Chicago, Gates said:

I really think that charters have the potential to revolutionize the way students are educated. ... The deal that allowed for the autonomy really has to be a real deal. The freedom to perform in new ways meant that if you don't perform that things are shut down after being given a chance.

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Here are his full remarks.

His comments dovetail with the release of two new studies comparing the performance and finances of charter schools to traditional public schools.

The first study, conducted by the Mathematica Policy Research, found that charter middle schools were effective at boosting the performance of low achieving students in poor, urban areas. Charters outside urban environments, which did not focus their programs on low-income, low achieving students, could have negative impacts on kids. Overall, that translates to no significant effects on achievement, the study concludes.

The second study, by researchers at Western Michigan University, found that charter schools receive 22 percent less public funding per student than traditional public schools—and that they spent more than 20 percent less money on each student. The finances of charter schools are murky because they don't have to disclose the private revenue that they raise from sources, such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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