Additionally, students across all grades in Harlem are now out-performing students in district schools on the West Side, a much more affluent area of the city. Not only has Harlem’s success shown that competition from high-performing charter schools push district-run schools to improve, but that the achievement gap can be closed. Although Harlem’s black majority has decreased over the past few years, blacks, along with Latinos, still make up the majority of students in its public schools. So to see such a big jump in performance among Harlem’s district-run schools – and in such a short period of time – is very encouraging.
Sure, the charter schools are still doing better than the district-run schools, but not to the detriment of the district-run schools. This is a common criticism of charter schools and school choice. But Harlem’s success proves that such criticisms are unfounded. Even better, this competition can help close the achievement gap because it raises the bar for all schools and all students. The fact that all schools in Harlem, not just charters, are improving shows not only that charter schools work but that school choice works – for everyone.