Charters vs. non-charters

Charter school students start out behind but make faster progress than students in traditional public schools, according to a study by the Goldwater Institute.

Findings indicate that charter school students, on average, began with lower test scores than their traditional public school counterparts, and showed overall annual achievement growth roughly three points higher than their non-charter peers. Charter school students who completed the twelfth grade surpassed traditional public school students on SAT-9 reading tests.

However, achievement growth varies by grade level. In the elementary grades, charter school students exhibited faster achievement growth than traditional public school students. Achievement growth in the middle grades was similar for both kinds of students, while high school achievement growth was higher for traditional public school students. One reason for this is that elementary charters are more likely to focus on academics, while middle and high school charters generally serve students who want vocational training, have been out of school, have learning or behavioral problems, or those who have been in the juvenile justice system.

Via Reform K12.

About Joanne


  1. No surprise here: students who don’t do well in one system often do well in another. Charter schools aren’t the answer, they are one of many answers.

    The problem is that not enough parents of failing students are asking any questions (of their children, their schools, and of themselves).

  2. D. Cooper says:

    The first obvious question regarding the study is my concern that the charter school students are begining at a lower level. Wouldn’t you expect that a student performing at a lower level who’s been identified and given selective treatment be expected to progress at a faster rate? They’ve got further to go, and are being given special attention. And, regardless of their ability, how were they selected. Do they by in large have a support system (namely family) that plays a role here. Or, is there some other ‘factor’ being suggested. Better teachers? Less distractions than in a public setting? Why?

    The study suggests faster growth, but the claim of better scores is hazy. Notice it says for students who’ve completed 12 grade in a charter schools. Do we have any statistics to indicate to what extent this population has been thinned? I’d just like to know if we’re comparing mangos to lemons here or not. (enough with the apples and oranges)

  3. Tom West says:

    Remember that noone ends up in a charter school unless they or their parents wanted them to be there. Even if academics are not used as a way to filter entrance, just the simple fact that you have to apply acts as a quite effective filter for the students that you do get.

    Secondly, in many charter schools, the opportunity to remove the most disruptive students exists.

    Especially in the most difficult settings, any environment that allows the school to not have to deal with the worst 10-20% is going to have a substantial advantage on the public system.

  4. Mad Scientist says:


    “Especially in the most difficult settings, any environment that allows the school to not have to deal with the worst 10-20% is going to have a substantial advantage on the public system.”

    And exactly why is this a bad thing?

  5. It’s not a bad thing, especially for the kids involved. But it’s not an accurate basis to say that the teachers in the charter are doing a better job than the teachers in the public. They could be doing a better job, but what you’re given has something to do with how much progress you can make. I can’t make a whole lot of progress with the kid in my first hour who shows up maybe once a week. I can make a lot of progress with the kids who show up every day. That’s all.

  6. D. Cooper says:

    Mad, it’s so much that it’s a bad thing, just that it is not a reason to beat up on and accuse public schools of not doing their job.

    Here’s a novel solution… skim and skim some more, and send them to charter or private schools. There’ll be a need to do some teacher shuffling … same pay of course… and the charter and private schools will educate the future of the American way, and the public schools will take all the left overs and essentially incarcerate them. Premium pay for that of course.

  7. The charter schools are doing better in some areas not because of the “better students,” but in many respects because the teachers there are required to take on a coherent curriculum. That is, a curriculum that goes from A to Z with all teachers working, in a general sense, on the same page every day, using intructional strategies that are known to work for the majority of students attending the school, and adopting common grading practices and assessments. This allows for true assessment of students AND teachers AS WELL AS administrators. When gaps, failures, and problems occur, the blamestorming that usually goes on now in public schools fingers a) the students, b) the parents, c) the lack of resources or d) society. Take your pick. It rarely points back to what is occurring in the classroom except in a very general way, but if every teacher is doing something different in each classroom, how can any important and meaningful comparisons be made to determine what works and what doesn’t??? (or, ahem, who works and who doesn’t) One major criticism of teachers doing the same thing is that we somehow lose our “creativity.” Please. If 15 actors play the role of King Lear, using exactly the same script, somehow they deliver 15 different interpretations and 15 different performances, each imbued with the personal style of the actor. But the audience still gets King Lear.

    One of the major reasons charter schools are being given a chance is because public school teachers have continually dug in their heels when
    it’s suggested they try a new curriculum, or incorporate instructional strategies geared to helping all students (special ed, ESL, migrant, low ses, etc.) or essentially stay on the same page from day to day, month to month, and year to year so that intelligent conversation (such as that which occurs with frequent lesson study or cooperative planning) can take place. No, they want to stay in their classroom fiefdom, teach the way they want to, grade the way they want to, and then complain about students who are not learning in their class. And in fairness to teachers, administrators, school boards, and district offices do NOTHING to facilitate intelligent and real development of teacher ability. Teachers are not given the time, nor the safe and orderly environment they need so that they can concentrate on what they are supposed to do. Teachers have traditionally been given a blank gradebook and a textbook in August and told to teach. The survivors make it to May, real survivors a couple or three years, and the ones who last beyond that time are either very talented (but burn out) or learn enough on their own to make it a workable profession. And we wonder why there is attrition? And digging in of heels when they are criticized for adapting well enough in a pathological system to make it from year to year with no help?

    If there is to be passing and failing and accountability, there has to be a set curriculum.
    Public school teachers vehemently object to it,
    because if you have a set curriculum, failing will occur and the students will definitely
    let it be known who the bad teachers and good teachers are. Believe it or not, students of all abilities know quality when they see it. And the administrators would have to do something about it other than quail before the sacred cows or denigrate the new teachers with “the crazy new ideas.” Teachers will then demand they be better prepared and better supported. Well, that’s a scary thought.

    Public school teachers have been complaining, moaning and groaning about the students not learning and on and on and on. But perhaps the student behavior is nothing more than an indictment of what we do to them day in and day out on our campuses.

    The teachers job is to teach and to teach all the children. So I would like to close with a statement which is not mine but which I think
    teachers at all schools, including colleges and universities, should consider. I believe it can be attributed to Eric Jensen (apologies for paraphrasing):

    If you keep teaching in the same way and students keep failing, then who is really the slow learner?

  8. D. Cooper says:

    Tim, what the hell are you talking about? What makes you think that the teachers in the public schools aren’t doing the same thing with unfortunately a different set of students. Whattaya think the charter schools have skimmed off the cream of the crop of teachers, paid them less and then presto … all better. Who are you kidding with this tripe. You really spent too much time on this claptrap.

    This comment is particulaly right on target …. Public school teachers have been complaining, moaning and groaning about the students not learning and on and on and on. But perhaps the student behavior is nothing more than an indictment of what we do to them day in and day out on our campuses…. have you had your head in the sand or just live in a cave. Maybe it’s got something to do with Gansta Rap, MTV, VH1, the Extreme Dating show, Howard Stern, and the Girls Gone Wild Videos. Give us a break.

    As for Eric Jensen … send him a copy of Girls Gone Wild and the latest 50 cent CD.

  9. D. Cooper says:

    Tim, here’s a tid bit from an interview with Jensen..

    Our society has changed, and we are doing a less effective job with children. In the first few weeks, most mothers go back to work, and day care centers are not able to give the simple, little attentions that parents can do.

    “Once students start school, another important area for the parents presents itself. Parents should begin being role models in terms of reading. Kids do not see their parents read these days. Also, kids need to understand that the foods they eat can either nourish or starve the brain. If we are going to rebuild the body, we pump in carbohydrates. But few people know what is good for learning. Parents need to find materials and source books on nutrition and learning. This seems to me one of the most important and most overlooked areas in all of early childhood.”

    You tell me what he seems to be saying here.

  10. Tom West says:

    Here’s a novel solution… skim and skim some more, and send them to charter or private schools. There’ll be a need to do some teacher shuffling … same pay of course… and the charter and private schools will educate the future of the American way, and the public schools will take all the left overs and essentially incarcerate them. Premium pay for that of course.

    As I said, I’d not say that charter schools are skimming the cream, but rather skipping the dregs.

    To be brutally honest, I suspect that may indeed be the future for poorer school districts. It is a gradual process that allows defacto streaming (and the wholesale abandonment of capable students who are unable to move to charters). It allows the imposition of many reforms (such as retention) while making it clear that they are not being “forced” on the community.

    I’ll also point out that I believe we’ll see unionization of charter school teachers once charter schools are numerous enough that a teacher seriously limits their career opportunities by not teaching at one. Contrary to Mad Scientist’s belief, I don’t think it will make any difference to the student outcomes, although any union would have to acknowledge the greater flexibilities allowed the charter school teachers when speaking for the teachers.

  11. Mad Scientist says:

    I guess the subject is so emotional that people have all ready made up their minds so why bother with the facts.

    In the Buffalo School District, charter schools are open to anyone, parents can ask that their kids go to a Charter School. But the entire Education Establishment can not and does not want to compete because then it will show everyone exactly how badly they have screwed up.

    You want evidence? Look at this

  12. Mad Scientist says:

    Oh, and some more background

  13. D. Cooper says:

    Mad, are any of the kids from the suburbs flocking to the charter schools? The Union’s stance regarding the Carnival is unfortunate, but you still have not been able to explain how the problem’s of inner city Buffalo schools are the fault of the teachers.

    The fact remains that any advantage that a charter school may provide has little to do with the quality of or dedication of its teachers. Parent’s who choose to send their kids there will tend to have a different outlook on their childs education that one who doesn’t. Otherwise, if the charter school is better, why wouldn’t they. I’m also sure that policies regarding malcontents are different along with the added parental cooperation in such cases.

    It’s not so much that a charter school can perform a service, but rather not forgetting some of the advantages they have; advantages not afforded to public schools. And, that the benefits derived are more a factor of those advantages rather than from a cadre of magicians.

    I would be grateful if you’d cite some statistics showing how the non-unionized teachers are doing a better job of teaching than their unionized counter parts … when placed in similar situations. Similar students, curriculum, expected outcomes, access to equipment, disciplinary options etc. Of course you can’t, and these differences some of which exist and some may not are not in the control of most teachers. In charter school, and public schools, these are the domain of administrators, parents, school boards and state education policy. I would suggest that unions (your big hate I know) have minimal effect on these factors, and would even suggest that if there was some effect it might be positive.

    I can’t imagine a scenario wherein charter school teachers (assuming they take off as you’d like) become unionized, and the teaching effectiveness becomes compromised. I bet you could though.

    I think there’s big problems in poor inner city school districts. But, to point the finger at teachers and their unions is to ignore the real problems to which solutions have been missing. To acknowledge that the problems are cultural and societal is to acknowledge that solutions are going to require some real changes.

  14. Mad Scientist says:

    Cooper, I am not pointing the finger of blame at the teachers, just the bozos who represent them. Ditto for the administrators, and the bozos who represent them. If you can’t get that point through your thick head, then there is NO hope for you.

    The funds these unions are talking about amount to FIVE percent of the Buffalo School District’s total budget. They get over $500 MILLION per year, and it is NEVER enough. The BSD STILL gets 70% of the state aid for the kids who elect to go to charter schools.

    While kids in suburban school districts are not flocking to BSD schools, there is now a “Black Flight” happening. Yes, inner city parents are now moving to the suburbs BECAUSE THE SCHOOLS ARE BETTER and they are tired of the same old shit the unions pull.

    Yes, charter schools hire and fire teachers based on their PERFORMANCE, which is NOT measured by anything as onerous as graduation rates, passage of state competency exams, or the like. Deal with it.

    Oh, and the Charter Schools in Buffalo were begun by the BOARD OF EDUCATION specifically to give parents a choice. It’s the UNIONS plain and simple that are trying to KILL this concept, and they don’t give a damn about who they hurt in the process.

    Speaking of how benign unions in this area are in general, it helps to know that Buffalo is a big union town. Last year, as part of their budget negotiations, they planned a huge sobreity checkpoint drive. Ostensibly, to make the streets safer. Something of which I am sure you would approve.

    So they staked out all the main arteries into (note not OUT of, just into) the city, with the exception of the interstates.

    They did this during the MORNING rush hour. Yes, that is right, 7 AM. Tied traffic up but good. Pissed off people trying to get to work because they did not like how the negotiations were going.

    You will never convince me that a union is good for anything except to extract money from their members so the chiefs can live a life of luxury.

  15. D. Cooper says:

    Mad, read my lips …..”The Union’s stance regarding the Carnival is unfortunate” …. I am not defending them….

    The black flight to the suburbs is to better schools …. guess why? I’ll spell it out for you. They’re not running from the schools, they’re running from their environment, the same reason the whites fled the inner cities in the last 30 years in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse etc. Get it? And if the blacks are flocking to the suburbs, aren’t those the big bad unionized ones?

    Your beef with the teachers union in Buffalo I’m sorry does nnot translate well. Name please the union officials (chiefs) in NYSUT who are living a life of luxury. I’m assuming if they were making salaries in your range that that would be considered luxury. (you did say you were making three times your wifes salary. The union president in my local, a teacher, had a small extra stipend and a reduced class load. Hardly a life of luxury. The extraordinary amount of time he spent with his duties (harassing people like you and roadside sobriety checks) outside the school day was hardly compensated by the stipend.

    Now, to you usual gripe, for some reason you have the notion that teachers in general must be lazy, and unable to compete in an atmosphere of performance. And, as you say that performance is not based on graduation rates or state competency tests. (clue me in on the basis of performance). I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely no reason that any teacher couldn’t compete. Where, tell me are they finding all these underpaid magicians. I have a very good friend who was an administrator of a large charter school concern. There is nothing extraordinary about the teachers they hire. They are NOT luring away the best from the public schools. They are NOT getting the best of the new graduates. You sir are full of crap. And, the negative affect on education in public schools that you attribute to the unions is bullshit. Bullshit and crap!!!

    You are just too angry. And as you say, you’ll never be convinced that unions are good for anything …blah, blah, blah … you’re probably right. You as a scientist know a little bit about the dangers of over generalizing from the specific. It seems you’ve taken a few liberties with that. Lord only knows you’ve rejected all reason so far. Now, go drop one of you little stink bombs.

  16. Mad Scientist says:

    Cooper, you continue to defend the indefensible.

    Bufalo is not the crime ridden wasteland you would make it out to be. These families are leaving the city precisely because they are tired of the failing schools, the city administration that has had to have a Financial Control Board brought in, and other municipal services that do not serve.

    It may be bullshit and then again, it may be crap, but there you go with your own generalizations.

    Here we have unions that conspire to make life miserable for students as well as ordinary people. People who are supposed to be looking out for the STUDENTS first, are looking out for themselves to the exclusion of the students.

    And where did I state that teachers are lazy? Please enlighten me. If you cannot cite a direct quote, then I must assume that you are a liar in addition to being stubborn and ignorant about anything outside of the utopia of Longuyland.

    Attitudes like yours make me want to outlaw unions.

  17. D. Cooper says:

    Mad, Got a little lost with this reply, had to go find your bad mouthings ….I ‘ll skip what I was to say originally. These three quotes are lifted from your replies here. I think they’ll make the point. Like I said bullshit and crap…that’s all you deal in … and the gall to call me a liar and misrepresent me. Responding to the rest of your dribble would be pointless.

    Here they are cut and pasted!! Any questions??

    1)The teachers are not to blame (we just have too much to do, discipline is a problem, and why should we be judged on what we do?),

    2)Yeah, regular ordinary UNIONIZED people who, once they get tenure, seem to be perfectly happy to just phone it in. Get rid of tenure, and the system will improve.

    3)Time to teach the teachers that nothing in life is guaranteed, especially a job. Not busting on all teachers, just UNIONIZED teachers. You people are SUPPOSED to be professionals.

  18. Mad Scientist says:

    Cooper, now you take things out of context to prove a point.


    And learn how to parse a sentence. I never called you a liar. I only said I must assume you are one.

  19. D. Cooper says:

    Parse this …. you are a bold face liar and unwilling to own up to what you said. You go find the cites and reread … these are your words and their meaning is very clear.

    And, you’re right you didn’t call me a liar, you just suggested that I was one if I couldn’t cite you. Well you’re right I am not a liar, you’ve been directly quoted for everyone to see. If you’d like to weasel out of any of those quotes, be my guest. Just give me 5 minutes to make pop corn; always love to eat pop corn when I watch a show. Especially a comedy!!

  20. Mad Scientist says:

    OK Dumbass:

    Directly quoted out of context! Do you work for the Kerry campaign? Or did you help get Bubba elected twice?

    1) That was pure sarcasm explaining the EXCUSES used by teachers’ UNIONS. It also EXPLICITLY says “Teachers are not to blame”. What part of THAT do you not understand?

    2) Again, it never says “teachers are lazy”. You INFERRED that. And it is yet another demonstration of the attitude of UNIONS.

    3) Where does it say “teachers are lazy”? Another swipe against UNIONS.

    You see, dumbass, my problem is with UNIONS and dinosaurs like you who are too blinded by their misplaced loyalty to a corrupting influence to actually try to solve the problems facing education in this country.

    UNIONS are defenders of the status quo, and you are marching lockstep with their directives.

    By defending the status quo, nothing will ever change.

    But that’s the way you want it.

  21. D. Cooper says:

    I suppose if your claim is that you did not use the actual word lazy then you’ve got a point. Any one with half a brain needs very little reasoning power to figure you out.

    1) Rhetorical is right …Teachers are not to blame was the rhetorical part, followed by in parens, the complaints you say teachers whine about

    2) Phone it in to me means ‘LAZY’ no need to make an effort … isn’t that what LAZY means?

    3) Shouldn’t be too difficult to see what you were getting at here .. guaranteed job, cruise along, blah, blah

    Do you seriously think you can weasel out of this. Nice try skippy. That was a LAZY effort at saving your hide. Maybe you can just ‘phone it in’ next time. Oops, gotta run, pop corns ready. Can’t wait for the next scene. That one was funny though.

  22. D. Cooper says:

    Mad, when you get a chance, go to and check out the site. To be sure there are some articles/news stories/links that relate to teacher benefits and welfare, but the vast majority of the site has to do with improving the teaching profession and education in general. Fighting for state aid to local districts to take some of the burden off the property tax payers is just one example. There are links to teacher training courses, and a host of other teacher professional improvement opportunities.

    Like you said, I’m not convincing you, but maybe you can see a few positives here that might give you some pause. I’m not overly optimistic, but the pop corn’s good.

  23. Mad Scientist says:


    I have rebutted your “evidence”. If that does not satisfy you, I am sorry. Deal with it.

    As far as NYSUT goes, I saw:

    A hit piece on the new Medicare law – pure politics.
    A report on how the accountability in Houston schools was bogus – a political hit piece.
    A piece touting how the union conned 618 workers to join (even though only 308 voted for the union).
    A piece calling for a moratorium on charter schools, because they will lose influence.
    Then ther are the calles for MORE MONEY.

    As I have stated in the past, UNIONS SHOULD HAVE NO POLITICAL ROLE. Most of the crap on that site is politically driven.

    Big FREAKING deal if they lower property taxes. Then the burden will hit Income and Sales taxes. And you can BET that property taxes will NOT go down as a result.

    Their motto should be “The union that helps New York learn – what we want them to learn”.

  24. D. Cooper says:

    Your weak attempt at rebuttal has been noted and will of course sit here on the blog to be judged. That pleases me. I can see you took some time to go to the NYSUT site, selecting very carefully I see, but I’m sure you found the teacher resources I was refering to. Didn’t expect you to cite them here in public of course. The tax issue is important, because as you know, income tax is based more appropriately on the ability to pay more so than property tax.

    I am a little confused by your remark …what we want them to learn… curriculum is generally developed by local districts, with administration, school board and teacher participation. The state ed. department of course has it’s mandates and regulations that need to be followed, and those don’t always come with the appropriate funding to carry out, leaving local school districts to foot the bill. Local school boards battle the state ed. department over these issues all the time. If anything teacher unions join them in this effort.

    Your plea to have unions not become involved with politics is absurd of course. This whole process is so affected by politics, that to be not involved would be a dereliction of duty.

    And a final note… The educational system in NYS is probably the best in the USA despite the difficulties presented by the uniqueness of NYC. NYS has had a preponderence of the finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, one of the most prestigeous competitions in the country. It was recently featured on ABC. The winner this year was from Conn. and the 5th place winner was from LI as were many other finalists. As an example, in 2001 13 of 40 finalists were from NYS, and of them, 4 were from LI and 4 were from NYC. This year there were 18 of the 40 from NYS and 7 were from LI. Not bad. All 7 from LI wre from public high schools where (all NYSUT locals!!) Someones doing something right.

    Complain away grumpy. I guess they learned what we wanted them to.