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.