Now that the Washington Post has also taken the findings of the latest charter school report as gospel, I think it's important that we examine some of the issues it raises more in-depth.
As Diane Ravitch points out, there a number of other studies finding blase or discouraging results for charters both nationally and in other cities. So if we assume that the report's findings are correct (while I think the report skims across a lot of issues, it does seem fairly likely that charter schools are outperforming traditional public schools in NYC), the first question we should ask is why charters in NYC are different. I can think of at least four reasons why NYC charters may be outperforming charters elsewhere when compared to other local schools:
1.) NYC schools are uniquely bad. If the public schools in NYC are incredibly atrocious and dysfunctional, then it shouldn't be that hard to create a school that outperforms most local schools. From experience, I can tell you that there are certainly a number of schools in NYC that are incredibly atrocious and poorly run. While teaching there I regularly heard horror stories from other teachers (not to mention the things I experienced in my school) that should make anybody cringe. I really can't say, though, that these horror stories make NYC schools any worse than those in Philly, Chicago, L.A., etc. -- I'm sure you can find more than any school's fair share of horror stories coming from other big cities as well.
2.) NYC charters more easily attract talent and funding. NYC is, to many people, the most important city in the world. There's certainly more talent and money floating around the city than there is in most other American cities. I have no evidence either way on this, but it's certainly plausible that NYC charter schools both find it easier to attract both talent (both in terms of management and employees) and outside funding -- both when compared to charters in other cities and when compared to other NYC schools. Especially since there are only around 80 charter schools in the city compared to around 1,000 or so traditional public schools.
3.) The NY Charter Review Board outperforms others. It's certainly possible that the board that approves the creation of charter schools in NYC does a better job of screening and monitoring than do other boards. One of our teachers during our pre-teaching summer training session was in the process of creating a charter school in Harlem. From what he said, it sounded like an awfully involved process involving a heck of a lot of thought and work. And maybe this has resulted in better planned and more successful charter schools.
4.) The other studies are all flawed. In other words, maybe Hoxby et. al. are right and everybody else is wrong. I'm sure all the other studies are flawed, but so is this one -- so I don't really find this idea convincing. It's not out of the realm of possibility that charters are generally outperforming other schools and we just haven't proved it yet, but I find it more plausible that charters are performing differently in different places.