Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement
Why some are saying only 1 in 5 charter schools perform, and why it’s wrong.
All About CREDO:
A compilation of resources on the National 2009 report and state reports on charter school achievement from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) to help you understand critiques on the research methodology.
Why Charter Schools Work:
In addition to the positive pressure they put on the public school system as a whole, charter schools satisfy and serve their primary constituents (teachers, parents, and students) by providing exciting and viable education in an inclusive, individual manner. A study in New York City found that charter school students are outperforming district school students in both math and English assessments. For example, almost 81 percent of charter school students in the sixth through eighth grades scores at or better than the grade-level standards, while less than 62 percent of their district peers did so. Although this is just one example of charter school academic achievement, many studies reflect charter schools’ academic successes.
Additionally, charter schools have been more successful at closing racial achievement gaps than district schools have been. A meta analysis of four different studies showed that Black students in charter schools scored 4.5 percentage points better than their district peers in English and 2.6 percentage points better in math. Through a series of education reforms that return power to parents, including charter schools, Florida’s Hispanic students now outscore the assessment averages for all races in 28 states, and their Black students outscore the average in 8 states.
Because charter schools are subject to the laws of the market, when they do not satisfy parents and do a good job educating students, they close due to lack of enrollment. This means that in states where charters are well-established, such as California and Washington, D.C., the advantage is often greater because bad charter schools tend to close over time, leaving a growing number of excellent charter schools that continue to satisfy their students and parents.
The “Ripple” Effect: Conventional public school districts often view charter schools as a threat, but time has shown that these new schools can serve a valuable teaching role. Increasingly, members of the traditional public school system are turning to charter schools for examples of “best-practices” regarding everything from curriculum to staffing to teacher retention. The attitudes of leading administrators in the conventional public school system are also changing. Instead of viewing charter schools as nuisances, many realize the need for the improvement spurred by charter schools.
Research has shown that charter schools have a “ripple effect” on other schools. Pressure brought to bear on traditional schools causes them to do more and do it better. A few examples:
• In Thomas County, Georgia, where in an effort to raise its graduation rate from below 70 percent, the district opened up the Bishop Hall Charter School. By the end of the school’s first year, the county’s overall graduation rate increased to 80 percent, and rose to 90 percent in the second year.
• Indianapolis Superintendent Eugene White, after calling for a moratorium on charters, said, “Charter schools have been a pain and now [traditional public schools] are motivated… We will no longer feel sorry for our situation or make excuses for being urban and poor. We will now find new ways to create better educational options and opportunities.”
• In San Diego, the popularity of charter schools spanning grades K-8 prompted the district to expand seven conventional elementary schools up to grade eight in an effort to compete.
Fact-Checking School Choice Research
The data that most education researchers would rather ignore. A reality check on the impact school choice is having throughout the country.
Why School Choice Programs Work:
While most of the programs in question are young, evidence suggests that they provide educational opportunity to those that need it most.
One choice success story comes from the largest and longest running voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Students in this program tested 9 to 12 percent higher in math, reading and science than their equally disadvantaged peers. Students also graduated at an 18 percent higher rate. The District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) is another school choice success. A 2010 study from the Institute of Education Sciences found that students who were awarded a scholarship graduated from high school at a 12 percent higher rate than those who applied for the scholarship lottery but did not receive it.
Examples of Choice & Charter Achievement
Florida Charter Schools Shine on State Grades: Of the 420 total charter schools to receive letter grades from the Florida State Department of Education in 2014, 41% received an “A”, compared to 34% of traditional public schools. Over 70% of Charter Schools USA schools earned an “A” or a “B” on the state grading system, with 90% maintaining or improving their grade from the previous year.
CMOs Have Positive Impact on Student Learning Study Shows: Charter Management Organization (CMOs) schools represent 17% of our nation’s charter schools and are showing increased effectiveness over district schools, according to a recent study. CMOs are located in urban areas of specific states with charter laws that allow CMOs to manage and have autonomy. The 2-year study looks at student achievement, teacher performance and school management. Read a summary here.
Charters Perform Well on NAEP: It’s been well documented that the 2011 NAEP scores for students have left much to be desired. Students only improved their scores by one point since 2009 and the achievement gap hasn’t budged. However, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools compared charter school scores with traditional public school scores and the results were promising. In nearly every subject and category, charter school students made much larger improvements than conventional public school students. You can read the full analysis here.
Florida Charters Outperform Traditional Public Schools: DC charters aren’t the only charter schools doing well. Get highlights from the most recent annual report from the Florida Department of Education comparing charter school and conventional public school performance here.
Russell Byers Charter Sticks With Students: This charter school in the City of Brotherly Love sure does love its students. The elementary school keeps up with students after they graduate, advising them and helping stay on a college-bound educational trajectory. 80% of the charter school’s alum already have college acceptance letters. Read more about this extraordinary school.
DC Charter High Schools Graduated 80 Percent of its 2011 Senior Class: DC graduation rate numbers reveal “a widening gap between the city’s public charter schools and traditional public high schools in the ability to graduate students on time,” reports the Washington Post. Eight in ten seniors graduate from DC public charter schools, whereas the graduation rate for the District’s traditional public schools is 59%.