This is the third in a series of three posts about charter schools. Here are the first and second parts.
As discussed in prior posts, high-quality analyses of charter school effects show that there is wide variation in the test-based effects of these schools but that, overall, charter students do no better than their comparable regular public school counterparts. The existing evidence, though very tentative, suggests that the few schools achieving large gains tend to be well-funded, offer massive amounts of additional time, provide extensive tutoring services and maintain strict, often high-stakes discipline policies.
There will always be a few high-flying chains dispersed throughout the nation that get results, and we should learn from them. But there’s also the issue of whether a bunch of charters schools with different operators using diverse approaches can expand within a single location and produce consistent results.
Charter supporters typically argue that state and local policies can be leveraged to “close the bad charters and replicate the good ones.” Opponents, on the other hand, contend that successful charters can’t expand beyond a certain point because they rely on selection bias of the best students into these schools (so-called “cream skimming”), as well as the exclusion of high-needs students.
Given the current push to increase the number of charter schools, these are critical issues, and there is, once again, some very tentative evidence that might provide insights. Read More »
This is the second in a series of three posts about charter schools. Here is the first part, and here is the third.
As discussed in a previous post, there is a fairly well-developed body of evidence showing that charter and regular public schools vary widely in their impacts on achievement growth. This research finds that, on the whole, there is usually not much of a difference between them, and when there are differences, they tend to be very modest. In other words, there is nothing about “charterness” that leads to strong results.
It is, however, the exceptions that are often most instructive to policy. By taking a look at the handful of schools that are successful, we might finally start moving past the “horse race” incarnation of the charter debate, and start figuring out which specific policies and conditions are associated with success, at least in terms of test score improvement (which is the focus of this post).
Unfortunately, this question is also extremely difficult to answer – policies and conditions are not randomly assigned to schools, and it’s very tough to disentangle all the factors (many unmeasurable) that might affect achievement. But the available evidence at this point is sufficient to start draw a few highly tentative conclusions about “what works.” Read More »
** Also posted here on “Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet” in the Washington Post and here on the Huffington Post
This is the first in a series of three posts about charter schools. Here are the second and third parts.
In our fruitless, deadlocked debate over whether charter schools “work,” charter opponents frequently cite the so-called CREDO study (discussed here), a 2009 analysis of charter school performance in 16 states. The results indicated that overall charter effects on student achievement were negative and statistically significant in both math and reading, but both effects sizes were tiny. Given the scope of the study, it’s perhaps more appropriate to say that it found wide variation in charter performance within and between states – some charters did better, others did worse and most were no different. On the whole, the size of the aggregate effects, both positive and negative, tended to be rather small.
Recently, charter opponents’ tendency to cite this paper has been called “cherrypicking.” Steve Brill sometimes levels this accusation, as do others. It is supposed to imply that CREDO is an exception – that most of the evidence out there finds positive effects of charter schools relative to comparable regular public schools.
CREDO, while generally well-done given its unprecedented scope, is a bit overused in our public debate – one analysis, no matter how large or good, cannot prove or disprove anything. But anyone who makes the “cherrypicking” claim is clearly unfamiliar with the research. CREDO is only one among a number of well-done, multi- and single-state studies that have reached similar conclusions about overall test-based impacts.
This is important because the endless back-and-forth about whether charter schools “work” – whether there is something about “charterness” that usually leads to fantastic results – has become a massive distraction in our education debates. The evidence makes it abundantly clear that that is not the case, and the goal at this point should be to look at the schools of both types that do well, figure out why, and use that information to improve all schools. Read More »