CREDO: New Jersey charters do well

Children in New Jersey charter schools gained an average of three additional months of learning per year in math, and two additional months of learning in reading compared to students in traditional public schools,” according to a new study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford.

Using a “virtual control record” methodology, CREDO compared students in third through eighth grade with similar students in traditional public schools from 2007 to 2011. It found 30 percent of New Jersey charters outperformed regular public schools in reading, while 11 percent of charter did worse. In math, 40 percent of charters did significantly better than traditional schools, while 13 percent fared worse.

Special ed students do about the same in charters as in traditional public schools, the study found.  English Language Learners in charter schools — a small group — have similar gains in reading and significantly better results in math.

Compared to neighboring schools, New Jersey charter schools enroll nearly twice as many blacks, half as many whites and Asians and somewhat fewer Latinos. The poverty numbers are almost identical.

Urban charters did very well, suburban charters did somewhat better and rural charters did worse. Newark’s charter students gained an additional seven and a half months in reading and nine months in math.

Newark’s school district is trying to improve, pushed by its high-performing charter schools, writes Andy Smarick. But if the reforms don’t work, “chartering can replace the district,” he argues.


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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    Like most blue states Jersey has and has had for quite some time high performing suburban schools with abysmal inner city schools. We tried and failed to improve low performing schools with additional state provided funding (Abbott districts). Parents in middle class and affluent areas are not interested or particularly supportive of charters because they are on the whole satisfied with their districts. Where charters have taken off and have seen significant success is in those awful districts in Newark, Camden, and like. Blacks are hugely supportive of charters and Cory Booker (Newark mayor and probably the next Senator) is popular in large part because of his unwavering support for them. Upon taking office Gov. Christy expanded the number of charters the state would allow significantly and did away with the disparity in funding that had previously crippled them. Prior to Christy, charter were funded at 2/3 the level of their local school with the remaining 1/3 being funneled into the same district school.

    Until two years ago, the K-5 charter I volunteer at in Jersey City didn’t have adequate basic supplies (books). Many of us volunteers supplied an adopted classroom with books, crayons and like by either raising funds ourselves, or (as I did) purchasing them outright.

    Charters are working in New Jersey.

    • Hey, take a back seat. Charters are doing pretty well in Michigan too.

      The cap on charters comes off completely in 2015 and pulling Detroit’s special charter cap has resulted in the percentage of public school kids surging to 41% putting Detroit second only to New Orleans. And, it didn’t take a natural disaster to displace the man-made disaster; we did via the ballot.

      We also may get voucher-lite and parental trigger although it remains to be seen how frantic the defenders of the educational status quo will become, or how much leverage they retain,

      I’m still waiting for the day the political class realizes that a school district isn’t necessary for publicly-funded education to occur and is, in fact, an impediment. Hopefully the rising number of charter schools, and the impact they’ll have on some of the dreadful school district Michigan labors under, will bring attention to the superfluousness of the school district.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        We need to keep our eyes on Indiana and Louisiana. Both have generous voucher programs that are being challenged in their state courts. Enrollment in the Indiana program more than doubled in the second year. They may get ruled unconstitutional (religious separation issues), but they are hugely popular and the states will likely make modest alterations to the programs if needed and continue on with them like happy warriors. The genie is out of the bottle and it will be tough to stuff it back in once parents and students get a whiff of choice.

        Cheers to Mitch Daniels and Bobby Jindal for doing the right thing for public education in their respective states.

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          I’d like to see charter caps removed everywhere but I fear it’s going to result in yet more disappointment. I very much suspect charters are another in the long line of educational fads that begin with a bang but end with an educational whimper. It’s most significant difference from the general fun of ed fads will simply be that it largely comes from the right rather than the left.

          All the fads fail because we are attempting something impossible: to turn just about every young person into a very junior version of a college professor. We try to create people who will love (or at least like) academic learning, who will be happy to spend hours reading and doing school work. It is never going to happen.

          It is never even going to come close to happening.

          Consider the findings of Arum’ and Roska’s Academically Adrift. There is a lot of choice in where to go to college. Pell grants and such are like vouchers, and college loans have few restrictions on where they can be used.

          Arum and Roska analyzed 2,300 students at 24 institutions who took the College Leaning Assessment. They concluded (according to the publisher’s blurb) “45 percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills—including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing—during their first two years of college.” Most of the other 55% didn’t gain a whole lot, either.

          Why? Most of them don’t have any intrinsic motivation to get good at academic skills, and the colleges largely don’t force them to.

          The author’s blame “lack of academic rigor.” As the old saying goes, “when all else fails, lower your standards.” The problem is that “all else” will always fail when the goal is impossible.