Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Study Shows NYC Charters Excel

This NYT editorial on charter schools is REALLY important, especially when combined with 1-3 above. If you add up all of the studies, I think it’s hard to make a compelling case that the average charter school in this country is better than the average closest public school – but I’m still a huge champion of charter schools for a variety of reasons: a) the national averages are skewed by the states with crappy charter laws like Ohio and Texas. They make it easy to get a charter so, not surprisingly, they have the greatest number of charters. States with rigorous charter laws like NY and MA have MUCH BETTER THAN AVERAGE charters – but fewer of them; b) while we have a long way to go to create real accountability for either regular public schools or charter schools (in terms of improving lousy schools, and if they don’t improve, shutting them down), I think in most states there’s more accountability for charters; and c) most importantly, the top 10-20% of charters are doing AMAZING things – they’re truly laboratories of innovation, black swans, and are changing the national (and state and local) debate on what’s possible educationally for the most disadvantaged kids (see page 89 of my school reform presentation here).

So as a movement, we have to move to a new level, where we stop fighting for ALL charter schools and start fighting only for GOOD charter schools (funding, facilities, ease of replication) – and fighting even harder than our enemies to shut down crappy charters that give our movement a bad name. This NYT editorial has it right (my emphasis added):

From a national standpoint, the 20-year-old charter school movement has been a disappointment. More than a third of these independently run, publicly funded schools are actually worse than the traditional public schools they were meant to replace. Abysmal charter schools remain open for years, even though the original deal was that they would be shut down when they failed to perform. New York City’s experience, however, continues to be an exception.

For the second time in three years, a rigorous study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes shows that the typical New York City charter school student learns more in a year in reading and math than his or her peers in their neighborhood district schools. The difference, over a typical year, amounts to about a month’s more learning in reading — and a whopping five months’ more learning in math.
That is good news, especially given the fact that about three-quarters of the city’s charter school children come from poor families. But a mixed picture emerged when the Stanford researchers measured charter schools on students’ learning growth (year-to-year improvement) as well as their overall achievement, as compared with the city as whole.
The data show that not all charter schools shared equally in the gains in reading. Nearly half, in fact, turned out to be slow-growth schools that may not be helping low-achieving students improve their reading skills quickly enough. This could lead to those students falling further and further behind.

The Stanford center rocked the education world in 2009 with a national study finding that only 17 percent of charter schools offered students a better education, as measured by test scores, and that an astounding 37 percent offered a worse one. Against this standard, New York is doing well, according to the new study, especially in math, where 63 percent of the charter schools studied outperformed their traditional district schools and only 14 percent performed worse. In reading, however, only 22 percent of the charter schools outpaced their public school counterparts, while 25 percent lagged behind their peer district schools.

The new Stanford study, which covers charter school performance from 2006 to 2011, does not explain New York’s overall success. But the city has some clear advantages over other places. It has a rigorous process for licensing charters and strong oversight. It gives charter operators free school space and provides administrative support so that they can more easily comply with state and federal laws. The city is also a magnet for education talent, drawing successful charter school management organizations, like Kipp and Uncommon Schools, that can replicate good instructional techniques. According to the Stanford researchers, 30 percent of New York’s children in charters are enrolled in schools run by management organizations, as opposed to about 20 percent nationally.

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