Wednesday, July 03, 2013

CREDO Study finds Charter Schools Excel

Last week CREDO released an update to its 2009 national study on charter school performance and the news is good – see the Executive Summary here. Here’s a summary from Nina Rees, President & CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools:

Dear Friends,

As you know, the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University (CREDO) released an update to its 2009 national study on charter school performance today.  We wanted to share a summary of the report and key national findings.

1.     There has been an improvement in overall charter school performance since the 2009 study. According to the CREDO report, the students in the charter schools covered by the study have shown both improved quality over the results from 2009 and an upward trend in their performance over the past five years.

2.     During the time period covered by the report, the average public charter school student gained an additional 8 days of learning each year in reading, compared to the loss of 7 days each year reported in 2009. In math, charter students in 2009 posted 22 fewer days of learning; now that gap is closed so their learning each year is on par with their peers in traditional public schools.

3.     With respect to the performance of public charter schools:
a.      In the 2013 study, CREDO reports that 29% of charter schools outperformed their traditional public school counterparts in math. In the 2009 study, 17% of public charter school outperformed their traditional public school counterparts in math.
b.     In reading, 25% of charter schools outperformed their traditional public school counterparts. Reading performance was not reported in 2009.
c.      On the whole, 69% of charter schools performed the same or better than their traditional public school counterparts in math. In reading, 81% of charter schools performed the same or better than their traditional public school counterparts.  

4.     The data looks even better for several demographic subgroups:
a.      Black students in poverty gained 29 days of additional learning compared to their TPS counterparts in reading, and 36 days in math per year.
b.     Hispanic students in poverty gained 14 of additional learning in reading and 22 days in math per year.
c.      Hispanic ELL students gained an additional 50 days of additional learning in reading 43 days in math per year.

5.     We have raised the bar in quality since the last report:
a.      8% of schools in the 2009 sample have closed. Removing these bad schools accounted for about a 1/3 of improvement in total school outcomes. Schools that remained open have also improved, accounting for another 1/3 of the improvement in school outcomes.

6.     The 2013 research report includes data from 26 states and New York City, accounting for 95% of all charter students in 2010-2011 (the last academic year of data analyzed). There are roughly 1.5 million students in the sample. The virtual twin methodology used in this study is the same as was used in the 2009 study.

From a national perspective, charter schools have improved since the last report. This is not surprising, considering the trend in improving outcomes reported in recent high-quality charter school research (as we reported in April of this year). Still, we need to remain vigilant about quality and accountability. With a continued focus on rigorous authorizing and improved state level policies, we expect the upward trend to continue.

There is much more detail in the report, including information about state performance. We’ll dig in further in the coming days, and will be available to discuss the report in more depth, should you have questions. In addition, we released a statement earlier today, and we’ll be active on social media. Make sure to follow @charteralliance and @ninacharters, and click on our blog for more information from the Alliance.



Below is a BusinessWeek article about the study:

Charter school students are making larger gains in reading than their peers in traditional classrooms while performing on par in math, according to a study of 1.5 million U.S. children.
The average student at a charter -- a privately run public school -- learned eight more days of reading a year than a pupil in a regular school, according to the Stanford University study. In both subjects, poor students, black children and those who speak English as a second language fared better in charters.

The study, one of the largest ever of charter school performance, buoyed advocates of the school-choice movement, which views charters as an alternative to the shortcomings of public education. Results from the study of 25 states and the District of Columbia represent a turnabout from a 2009 report that had shown charter schools children faring worse.

“The charter sector does seem to be posting better results, especially with disadvantaged students,” said Margaret Raymond, director of Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which conducted the study. “The fact that they are moving the needle with this many students since 2009 is a pretty impressive finding.”

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I think the CREDO studies are useful in many ways (such as identifying which cities and states are doing better than others – this line from the report makes sense to me: “While charter schools on average produced better results in states including Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Tennessee, as well as Washington, D.C., in some states, including Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, the results were worse — in some cases, significantly worse.”) – but I’ve always been skeptical of their findings vis-à-vis comparisons to comparable public schools. It never made sense to me that, according to CREDO’s initial study, charters hugely underperformed regular public schools in the first year they had students, and then outperformed EVERY OTHER YEAR afterward. This effect is still true (see figure 42 on page 79 of the report – pasted below), though it’s not as pronounced. Here’s the response to my question from one of the authors of the report: “Same general trend, but the first year isn't as dire and out years are more dramatic than in 2009.”

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