Department of Education published a report indicating that more than half of all charter school authorizers had trouble closing a charter school that was not performing well. Charter schools not being held accountable for their results is a problem because it is a prominent feature of the charter school concept. CER argues that this "shows that ineffective schools first demonstrate the inability to remain financially viable or effectively operate well before there are signs that the school is struggling academically.
Student achievement in charter schools is important information in policy decisions. The most rigorous studies conducted to date have found that charter schools are not, on average, better or worse in student performance than the traditional public school counterparts. This average result, however, obscures tremendous variation between individual charter schools and charter schools in different states.
Some of charter schools significantly outperform their counterparts in traditional districts. Some states have better performing charter schools than others. The single most rigorous study of charter schools yet conducted, funded by the U. Department of Education and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, found that on average charter middle schools that held lotteries for entrance were "neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement.
As they note, the study's results may not generalize to all charter schools, since they only studied schools that had significantly more applicants than they could accept. The results of the Mathematica study gives context to previous research.
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They found 17 percent of charters posted academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, 37 percent of charter schools were significantly worse, and 46 percent were statistically indistinguishable. Another recent study by Zimmer et al. While some studies do not show stellar academic achievement from charter schools, other studies in some cities have found strong positive results. Using a rigorous methodology similar to the Mathematica study of charter middle schools, Hoxby, Murarka, and Kang found that charter schools in New York City, on average, significantly outperformed the traditional counterparts.
In a comparable study of Boston charter schools, Abdulkadiroglu et al. In one of the founding documents of the charter school movement, Brookings Institution fellows John Chubb and Terry Moe argued that autonomy, choice and freedom from many of the regulations governing traditional public schools would make charter schools centers of educational innovation.
The disputes then were over which Bible and which prayers were appropriate to use in the classroom. In , fighting broke out between Protestants and Catholics in Philadelphia; a number of people died in the violence and several Catholic churches were burned.
Similar conflicts erupted during the s in Boston and other parts of New England. The Legal Status of Religious Organizations in Civil Lawsuits March Are legal disputes involving churches and other religious institutions constitutionally different from those involving their secular counterparts, and if so, how? Free Exercise and the Legislative and Executive Branches October A look at state and federal statutes that protect religious freedom.
Religious Displays and the Courts June Government displays of religious symbols have sparked fierce battles. Clauson , the court upheld an arrangement by which public schools excused students during the school day so they could attend religious classes away from school property. The new Pew Research Center survey finds that one-in-ten religiously affiliated teens in public school leave the school for religious activities.
Beginning in the s, the court handed religious conservatives a series of major defeats. It began with the landmark ruling, Engel v. Since then, the Supreme Court has pushed forward, from banning organized Bible reading for religious and moral instruction in to prohibiting school-sponsored prayers at high school football games in In these and other decisions, the court has repeatedly stressed that the Constitution prohibits public schools from indoctrinating children in religion.
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But it is not always easy to determine exactly what constitutes indoctrination or school sponsorship of religious activities. For example, can a class on the Bible as literature be taught without a bias for or against the idea that the Bible is religious truth? Can students be compelled to participate in a Christmas-themed music program? Sometimes students themselves, rather than teachers, administrators or coaches, bring faith into school activities.
For instance, when a student invokes gratitude to God in a valedictory address, or a high school football player offers a prayer in a huddle, is the school legally responsible for their religious expression? The issues are complicated by other constitutional guarantees.
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For instance, the First Amendment also protects freedom of speech and freedom of association. Religious groups have cited those guarantees in support of student religious speech and in efforts to obtain school sponsorship and resources for student religious clubs. The right of a student or student club to engage in religious speech or activities on school property may, however, conflict with other protections, such as the right of students to avoid harassment.
Because the student had graduated by the time the Supreme Court granted his appeal, the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to vacate its ruling and dismiss the case. In one of these cases, the Supreme Court ruled against CLS, stating that these nondiscrimination policies were constitutional so long as they were viewpoint neutral and fairly applied to all groups seeking recognition on campus.
As these more recent controversies show, public schools remain a battlefield where the religious interests of parents, students, administrators and teachers often clash. The conflicts affect many aspects of public education, including classroom curricula, high school football games, student clubs, graduation ceremonies. The most enduring and controversial issue related to school-sponsored religious activities is classroom prayer.
In banning the prayer exercise entirely, the court did not rest its opinion on the grounds that unwilling students were coerced to pray; that would come much later. Rather, the court emphasized what it saw as the wrongs of having the government create and sponsor a religious activity. Schempp , the court ruled broadly that school sponsorship of religious exercises violates the Constitution.
Schempp became the source of the enduring constitutional doctrine that all government action must have a predominantly secular purpose — a requirement that, according to the court, the Bible-reading exercise clearly could not satisfy. Perry , the U. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a Texas law mandating a moment of silence because it determined that, in passing the law, the state legislature had sufficiently articulated a secular purpose.
But while courts have given states some latitude in crafting moment of silence statutes, they have shown much less deference to laws or policies that involve actual prayer. The case effectively outlawed a practice that was customary in many communities across the country, thus fueling the conservative critique that the Supreme Court was inhospitable to public expressions of faith.
So far, lower appellate courts have not extended the principles of the school prayer decisions to university commencements Chaudhuri v. Tennessee, 6th U.
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Circuit Court of Appeals, ; Tanford v. Brand, 7th Circuit, The 4th Circuit, however, found unconstitutional the practice of daily prayer at supper at the Virginia Military Institute. In that case, Mellen v. The decision was similar to an earlier ruling by the U. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which found unconstitutional a policy of the U. Laird, Most recently, in , the Supreme Court declined to review a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the firing of a football coach at a public high school for praying on the field with his players after games.
However, in a statement accompanying the denial of review, Justice Samuel A.
Alito Jr. In , Michael Newdow filed suit challenging the phrase on behalf of his daughter, a public school student in California. Newdow , reached the Supreme Court in , but the justices did not ultimately decide whether the phrase was acceptable. Instead, the court ruled that Newdow lacked standing to bring the suit because he did not have legal custody of his daughter. While the issue never reached the Supreme Court again, it continued to be litigated in the lower courts. In Myers v.
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Loudoun County Public Schools , the 4th U. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld recitation of the pledge in Virginia, but a U. However, the 9th U.
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Circuit Court of Appeals in reversed the district court decision, ruling that the recitation of the pledge did not constitute an establishment of religion. The courts have drawn a sharp distinction between officially sponsored religious speech, such as a benediction by an invited clergyman at a commencement ceremony, and private religious speech by students. The Supreme Court made clear in Lee v. Judges usually reach that same conclusion when school officials cooperate with students to produce student-delivered religious messages.
But federal courts are more divided in cases involving students acting on their own to include a religious sentiment or prayer at a school commencement or a similar activity. Some courts, particularly in the South, have upheld the constitutionality of student-initiated religious speech, emphasizing the private origins of this kind of religious expression.
As long as school officials did not encourage or explicitly approve the contents, those courts have upheld religious content in student commencement speeches. In Adler v. Duval County School Board , for example, the 11th U. Circuit Court of Appeals approved a system at a Florida high school in which the senior class, acting independently of school officials, selected a class member to deliver a commencement address. School officials neither influenced the choice of speaker nor screened the speech.
Under those circumstances, the appeals court ruled that the school was not responsible for the religious content of the address. Other courts, however, have invalidated school policies that permit student speakers to include religious sentiments in graduation addresses. One leading case is ACLU v. The 3rd U. Circuit Court of Appeals nevertheless ruled that the high school could not permit religious content in the commencement speech.
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The court reasoned that students attending the graduation ceremony were as coerced to acquiesce in a student-led prayer as they would be if the prayer were offered by a member of the clergy, the practice forbidden by Weisman in Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Similarly, in Bannon v. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida school officials were right to order the removal of student-created religious messages and symbols from a school beautification project.
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