Are bad schools immortal? For all the talk of turnarounds, most bad schools stay bad — and stay open, concludes a Fordham study by David Stuit of Basis Policy Research.
Stuit tracked more than 2,000 low-performing charter and district schools across ten states from 2003-04 through 2008-09: 72 percent of low-performing charter schools and 80 percent of low-performing district schools showed little improvement and remained in operation. Only one percent met his definition of a “turnaround,” moving reading and math achievement from its state’s bottom decile to above the state average.
Charter schools started near low-performing schools are more likely to raise students’ reading and math achievement significantly, Stuit found.
Across ten states (Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin), I located all incidents (between 2002-03 and 2006-07) of a charter school opening in close proximity to a district school that had reading and math proficiency rates in the bottom 10 percent of its state at the time the charter appeared in its neighborhood. To qualify as a fair match-up, the charter and district schools had to be the nearest neighboring public schools of the same type (elementary or middle) and be located less than three miles apart as the crow flies. The schools also had to be demographically similar, with no more than a 10 percentage point difference in their subsidized lunch and minority enrollments.
Nineteen percent of the charter schools tested above the state average in 2008-09, compared with 5 percent of district schools.
The sample size is small and selection bias can’t be ruled out, Stuit writes. Furthermore, there aren’t nearly enough charters available to students in the lowest performing schools.