Some research shows charter schools are more effective than traditional schools. Other studies find no difference. What’s going on? Debra Viadero of Inside School Research asked Mathematica researcher Brian Gill, who said research results are converging.
A new randomized study on charter schools for the federal Institute of Education Sciences found that overall, charter middle schoolers were no more successful than similar students in traditional public schools. But disadvantaged urban charter students did better, while suburban charter students did worse. That supports other research finding charters are more successful with disadvantaged students.
The consistent findings on charter schools’ effectiveness with disadvantaged, urban populations — and their apparent ineffectiveness in suburbia — also made Gill wonder why middle-class parents continue to choose them. “One thought I had was that maybe middle-class families are looking for something other than test scores,” he said.
That’s the explanation, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. Many suburban charter schools were started by progressive educators and parents as alternatives to traditional schools.
As far as I can tell, lots of these uber-progressive schools are quite good, and achieve excellent results in terms of student success in college and beyond. . . . But these institutions sure aren’t focused on getting kids ready to pass the state standardized test. So, compared to their traditional school counterparts, their test scores suffer.
High-poverty charters with lower test scores than neighboring schools should be shut down, even if parents prefer the charter, Petrilli writes. If poor kids don’t learn reading and math, they’re doomed. But suburban parents who choose a school with lots of art, music, gardening and projects — and lower test scores than the high-scoring school down the block — are not dooming their children to a lifetime of poverty.