Charter success

Charter students outperform non-charter students in nearby schools, according to Caroline M. Hoxby, a Harvard economics professor. Charter students were 3 percent more likely to be proficient on their state’s reading exam, and 2 percent more likely to be proficient in math.

While the American Federation of Teachers’ negative findings relied on 3 percent of fourth-grade students in charter schools, Hoxby analyzed scores for “virtually 100 percent” of fourth-graders in charter schools and compared them to students at the nearest public school, reports the New York Post.

California charter schools showed greater improvement than traditional public schools on the state’s Academic Performance Index, says the state’s Charter Schools’ Association.

According to the latest data, which looked at API growth gains from 2003 to 2004, 64.4 percent of charter schools increased their API scores, compared to 61.1 percent of non-charter schools. Charter schools increased their API scores by an average of 12.9 points, compared to 7.3 points for non-charter schools. In addition, 60.4 percent of charter schools met or exceeded their API growth targets, compared to 54.1 percent of non-charter schools. On average, charter schools also surpassed their API growth targets by 7.5 points, compared to 2.1 points for their non-charter counterparts.

California now has 537 charter schools with 180,000 students.

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  1. The old saying is “figures don’t lie, but liars often figure.” When I read the article you’re quoting, I noticed that the figures came from the “California Charter Schools Association” who I think might have a somewhat biased view on the charter school issue.

    I did a quick review of the AYP data last night and could use these “figures” just as easily to show that California schools lag behind non-charters. In looking at the AYP results for 2004, only 60% of charter schools met AYP while 65.1% of non-charters did.

    If AYP is a flawed measure as CDE and others suggest, let’s look at the percent of students scoring proficient on the California Standards Test. The average proficiency level of charters was 29.7% in math, while non-charters had a 38.2% average proficiency. In Language Arts, it was closer with charters having an average level of 34.1% vs. the 35.0% level of non-charters.

    Anyway, my point is that only looking at a small subset of the data allows us to “prove” our point, whatever it is. In my opinion, some charters are doing a great job and some aren’t. Just like non-charters. The key as I see it is to look at what the schools that are successful are doing, charter or non-charter, and see if that can help other schools succeed.

    BTW, if you missed it you should read Peter Schrag’s Sac Bee piece on AYP vs. API ( He mentions an East Palo Alto school that gained 101 points on the API, but yet only 2% of their students were proficient in Language Arts and 9% in Math. With over 90% of the students failing the standards test, I think they should be celebrating their success.

    Love your site!


  2. three observations, Dave:
    one is to control for peer groups to see if changes in school structure if effective.

    second is to measure overall results: afterall, neither 34% nor 35% proficiency is acceptable.

    Third is an overall flaw: examination of fourth grade results as a measure of charters. Both AFT as well as the Harvard prof results are irrelevant to secondary schools (which is where I assert that the charters are even more vital since those settings tend to be much fluid with multiple teachers, schedules and directions)

  3. Charter school students start out behind average students. The question is whether they improve more quickly. Apparently, they do.

    It’s much easier to compare like to like at the elementary than at the high school level: There aren’t many fourth grade drop-outs. In addition, students move in third and fourth grade from learning to read to using their reading skills to learn at a higher level. Fourth graders who can’t read well are in big trouble.

  4. Joanne Jacobs wrote:

    Charter school students start out behind average students.

    I think this is a point that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

    One of the standard knocks by VPEC (Vast Public Education Conspiracy) on charters is that they’ll “cherry pick” the best students and leave the public schools with, to flog the “fruit” metaphor, the road apples.

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that the truth is just the opposite and some reflection makes the reason fairly obvious.

    If you’re a parent who’s public school kid is doing fabulously well, AP classes up the wazoo, National Merit scholar, etc., do you pull them out to send them to a charter? Obviously, no.

    On the other hand, if your kid is having a tough time in public school, performing below grade, not caring about it and not learning much, on the slope to a minimum wage life, you start looking for something, anything, to make a difference.

    I wonder if there’s any research that casts some light on the type of kids who actually populate charter schools? Maybe the NYT would run a story about something like that, as a way of helping to establish a reputation for journalistic ethics. πŸ™‚