Charters work best for neediest kids

Urban charter schools improve the achievement of their low-income, black and Latino students, writes Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan professor, in the New York Times. In predominantly white, middle-class suburbs, “charters do no better and sometimes do worse” than neighborhood schools.

MATCH's disadvantaged students are some of the highest scoring students in Boston.

MATCH students are some of the highest scoring students in Boston. Credit: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times

Lottery studies in Massachusetts and a national study of charter schools funded by the Education Department confirm the pattern, she writes.

A Stanford study of student performance in 41 cities “also concluded that their charters outperformed their traditional public schools.”

Charter schools in Boston, which predominantly educate low-income black students, produce “huge gains in test scores,” her research shows. Charter-school “score gains are large enough to reduce the black-white score gap in Boston’s middle schools by two-thirds.”

Boston’s charters also do a better job at preparing students for college. Charter students are twice as likely to take an Advanced Placement exam as similar students in Boston’s other public schools. Ten percent of charter students pass an A.P. calculus test, compared with just 1 percent of similar students in other public schools. This stronger preparation means that these charter students are far more likely than similar students in traditional public schools to attend a four-year college.

Urban charters have one big advantage: It’s not hard to do better than the district alternative.

The bar is higher in the suburbs. Suburban charters must be drawing parents who value a small school, more flexibility, a non-standard curriculum or . . . They’re choosing something.

Looking at eighth-grade math scores on NAEP, Hispanic charter students in Florida and Arizona “scored about a grade level ahead” of Hispanic students in district schools, writes Matthew Ladner. In Florida, Hispanic charter students outperform the state average for all students in half the states.

Resegregation now

Large and medium-sized “school districts in the South have steadily resegregated” when freed from court supervision, according to a Stanford School of Education study published in the fall issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

“Many of the gains that resulted from the Brown decision are being lost,” said Sean Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford and lead author of Brown Fades: The End of Court-Ordered School Desegregation and the Resegregation of American Public Schools.

Suburban schools are failing to integrate disadvantaged minority students, concludes a new book, The Resegregation of Suburban Schools, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield. “The United States today is a suburban nation that thinks of race as an urban issue, and often assumes that it has been largely solved,” write the editors. Not so.

Charter schools work for disadvantaged kids

Urban charter schools and those serving disadvantaged children improve achievement, while suburban charters and schools serving advantaged students lower achievement, concludes a Mathematica Working Paper. The study compared the achievement of charter middle school students with others who applied for the charter but lost a lottery and had to enroll elsewhere.