Charter performance

Charter school students don’t perform as well as students in traditional public schools, concludes Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States, released by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). However, low-income students and students who aren’t fluent in English do better in charter schools. Special education students do about the same.

Overall, the report found 17 percent of charters outperform traditional public schools, 46 percent are about the same and 37 percent are less effective.

Students do better in charter schools over time. While first year charter school students on average experienced a decline in learning, students in their second and third years in charter schools saw a significant reversal, experiencing positive achievement gains.

Elementary and middle school charters are effective; high school charters lag behind.

There were very significant differences between states.  States that cap the growth of charter schools had lower performance, as did those with multiple charter authorizers. Denver, Chicago and Louisiana charter schools were the most effective; Ohio charters did the worst.

On average, charter schools receive 78 percent of the funding of district-run public schools. In seven of 16 states studied, charters receive no facilities funding so they must use operating funds to pay for classroom space.

In response to the report, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called for requiring annual performance targets in charter contracts and clear legal authority to close underperforming charters. The alliance also wants to hold charter authorizers accountable for the performance of schools they approve to make it harder for poorly conceived schools to shop around for a lax authorizer.

National Alliance will be releasing A New Model Law for Supporting High-Quality Growth for Public Charter Schools next week.

The alliance criticized some aspects of the report, such as the comparability of charter and non-charter students and limited data on high school achievement. A recent RAND report found charter students earned similar test scores to non-charter students but were more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college.

Center for Education Reform analysis the strength of states’ charter laws in Race to the Top for Charter Schools.

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  1. Surprising results, it will be interesting to see the extent to which they are replicated. I’m particularly interested by the result that non-disadvantaged students do worse in charter schools – are these the results of parents enlisting their children in nice-sounding non-rigorous schools? If so it fits in with my hypothesis that elite private schools aren’t any better on average at teaching than public schools. Or charter schools focussing more on the students who are further behind?

  2. CharterMom says:

    I quickly reviewed the results for my state and one thing stood out to me — the use of the free and reduced lunch program designation to identify low income. However there are federal guidelines that need to be met to participate in the program and not all charter schools participate so it can be a misleading indicator. I realize that those doing studies don’t have any other indicator so I don’t blame the study. However I checked all of the charters in my county on our state’s data website and 3 of the 7 charters showed no economically disadvantaged students. That is almost impossible in my county which has a high level of economically disadvantaged students. In addition I know from personal experience that 1 of the 3 definitely doesn’t participate in the federal lunch program because of lack of facilities but there are a significant percentage of low income kids present. The school just handles those kids separately. I suspect the other two schools that show no economically disadvantaged kids are in a similar situation — they have some but handle them separately so don’t get the identifier.

    As the public schools in my district all participate in the free and reduced lunch program this meant that the attempt at demographic mapping likely failed as the public school groupings included only NED kids while the charter school groupings contained ED and NED kids with the ED kids likely pulling down the results of the NED given that economic disadvantage generally has an impact on performance. Interestingly I also checked a couple of schools in a neighboring county that I knew where located in low income areas and saw the same result of no economically disadvantaged students even though I can almost guarantee you that these schools had high percentages of ED students even though they would show zero. Again this would throw off a demographically matched comparison.

  3. CharterMom says:

    UGH! I apologize for the stream of consciousness style of writing above. That’s what I get for not rereading before I post.