Study questions charter schools’ success

The average charter school doesn’t do any better educating kids than the typical traditional public school, according to a new study released Wednesday. In some cases, charter schools do worse.

The report from the Center of Research on Education Outcomes compared the reading and math test scores of charters and traditional public schools that shared traits.

The study concluded that 37 percent of charter schools posted math gains that were significantly below what students would have earned at local traditional public schools.

The report wasn’t all negative. Researchers found charter school students do better the longer they’re in charter schools. While students’ learning declines the first year, they post huge gains during their second and third years.

What makes this study so important is that the group reviewed about 70 percent of the nation’s charter schools.

Expect advocates on both sides of the charter debate to cite this study as leaders debate new rules over charters and how quickly to expand them.

The pro-charter Center for Education Reform put out a news release disputing the findings by questioning the report’s methodology and data. CER studies show charter schools outperform traditional public schools.

We already know fights are coming here because of the new Georgia Charter Schools Commission, which could authorize its first charters today.

(UPDATE: The commission approved two of the three requests before them. Ivy Preparatory Academy of Norcross and Statesboro’s Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts & Technology got the thumbs up. Scholars Academy State Elementary in Riverdale, was denied because of academic and enrollment issues.)

Charter schools are supported with taxes but exempt from many regulations traditional public schools must follow. The expectation is that charters use innovative methods and programs.

What are your impressions about Georgia’s charter schools? What questions should we ask as Georgia looks to expand these schools?

18 comments Add your comment

jim d

June 18th, 2009
8:50 am

Personally i think the only questions that needs to be answered are

If it truly is about the children and not the politicans–

1: Why are local boards turning down charters that the state will approve?

2: Why has this taken so long to come about?


June 18th, 2009
10:13 am

jim, maybe the question should be “why is different considered to be better?” What I think a lot of charter schools find out is that the “way it has been done” is frequently a good way to do it for most kids, and “there are things out of your control” which is what the traditional public schools have known for quite a while. Unfortunately, the traditional public schools are giving up more and more of their authority to shape children by making excuses about the home lives of the kids, instead of saying, “Once your child comes through THIS door…”

I reported a case of suspected abuse/neglect to one of those at my school who should get those reports, who said to me, “We can’t tell parents how to raise their kids.” When I heard that, I went to the next person on the reporting chain.

Charter schools whose reason for being is to “be different” don’t have the success of those with more specific intent, such as to educate girls more appropriately.


June 18th, 2009
10:41 am

I feel that a great deal of this relates to parent perception and socio-cultural components and values. Parents who are actively involved and who decide to move their children, could do so out of regard to the learning climate in their child’s current school. Still others may perceive these schools to be alternatives to private schools, and therefore be more supportive of the initiatives of the school. While I am not fully aware of the bureaucratic elements these schools are able to skirt, if it will enable like-minded students and parents to work in tandem for the success of the students and schools- I support it and I am a public schools teacher. On the other hand, I also recognize that there would be issues for students who are “left out”, and another whole set of politics for schools who teach students with hardships not accounted for in AYP and CRCT measures. Environmental aspects count, and any school, whether it be public, private, or chartered, will be successful when: the students are motivated to learn, learning is modeled at home or is valued, and parents, teachers, and admin are on the same page. There is no room for politics and PR if we are truly vested in refacing Georgia’s schools. We educators have taken the brunt of accountability, however, students and parents must share in this responsiblity if there are to be productive changes.


June 18th, 2009
10:59 am

Well, there are some good schools and not so good schools – whether you are talking about private, public, or charter schools. Isn’t that obvious?


June 18th, 2009
12:01 pm

Reality2 – you are so right, but it takes a multi-year, $3 million study to verify your claim.


June 18th, 2009
1:13 pm

And I have noticed that many things labeled “best practices” require investments in materials from certain companies. Or they require an investment in staff in order to pull off the practices that, frankly, the school board will not hire, expecting the current levels of staffing to “work harder” instead.


June 18th, 2009
1:32 pm

According to the AJC my school district is in the top five of all Georgia counties in math, reading and Language Arts on the CRCT. First of all, I despise the CRCT as it is currently used, but that being said, what does this mean? I can’t possibly tell what other teachers in private schools, charter schools or even other public schools are doing in their classrooms, but I can tell anyone that will listen what the secret to success is. Make the classroom a place of learning. I tell my students I am not their mommy or daddy and I will not be disrespected. Ever. I emphasize their problem solving skills, not mine. When they ask a question, I turn it around on them and ask them how can THEY find the answer. I’ll admit I am a dinosaur when it comes to education, but who says you have to have the latest and most expensive toys to be the best? My generation produced some of the world’s best thinkers and we didn’t have smart boards or the internet. We didn’t even have color TV. I watch the younger teachers try their best to entertain the students to grab their interest and I do that to some degree as well, but in my class, I am the entertainer/teacher. It’s my responsibility to get the information to the students in a way that they can understand and learn. All the visual stimuli and computer programs are nice, but what good are they if the kids don’t get the concepts? They end up being high priced toys. I haven’t had a class score less that 97% on the math CRCT since I’ve been teaching in Georgia. No magic, just hard work and high expectation put on the students. It doesn’t matter where this occurs, public, private, or charter schools. That is the recipe to success!


June 18th, 2009
1:41 pm

One thing I neglected to mention is that while I sound like a character out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, my students know that I love them. They know that even though I’m hard on them, it’s because I want them to succeed for their benefit, not mine. I build relationships with all my kids. It’s as simple as asking what they did over the weekend or how’s your mom feeling after the surgery? Whatever it takes to get inside their little heads and hearts. With some kids it isn’t easy to be sure, but they all deserve the chance to feel good. They feel like the teacher cares, they like school. Part 2 of my recipe for success. And before I’m accused of teaching in nice suburban schools where there are little to no discipline problems, I have taught in some of the poorest districts in the entire country with some of the hardest thugs imaginable. I have taught every segment of the socioeconomic spectrum there is. There is no substitute for hard work, high expectations and caring for the kids to get them to learn.

Middle school teacher

June 18th, 2009
4:11 pm

dbow, well said! That is the way that I approach teaching students – hard work, high expectations, and genuine caring. By the way, the hard work is from me and the students.


June 18th, 2009
4:21 pm

Middle school teacher, I said what many of us feel. We do a lot of up front work that pays off in the end. Enjoy your summer!

Mass marketing the CRCT

June 18th, 2009
6:06 pm

My goodness, it does seems that the corporate shills at the AJC are pushing the “Ain’t education grand in Georgia?” agenda with their slant on the CRCT reporting. I guess they are only doing their part as corporate citizens to convince us the overwhelming majority of Georgia’s students are on track according to CRCT scores.

Before you buy into the hype, try the following. Get a hundred middle school students from any and everywhere in Georgia. Ask them to read to you, discuss current events with you, and then write an essay. Then ask yourself if would you be happy with their current level of education if they were your child?

Given the push for charter schools, private schools, and home schooling, I think, despite the AJC’s best efforts to market the CRCT, we know the answer.


June 18th, 2009
7:06 pm

If we support the charters doing great work, assist the charters which are doing good but could do better and close the charters doing poor work, we will see K12 education improve. We can not be scared to change the way we do things currently.


June 18th, 2009
7:11 pm

The key to the whole discussion is that charter schools fared worse when compared to traditional schools with similar traits???? Well Duh, the point of a charter school is to create a better school in an area where the traditional public schools aren’t getting it done. The only comparison of value is whether the school is outperfoming the local competition ie the schools their kids would have went to were the charter not available. You can sum up the entire premise behind publics schools (indeed most any government operation) Equality via mediocrity. Show me a public service where this is not applicable


June 18th, 2009
7:37 pm

As with all schools, there are good charter schools and bad ones too…a school is only as good as its staff/leaders. More freedom is only better when you have qualified, motivated individuals at the helm.

That said, I am a big fan of charter schools. Schools should have the flexibility to hire/fire whomever they need to. In most public schools, if the job title isn’t an “official” job title in the district, you cant have that position, no matter how necessary it may be.


June 18th, 2009
8:04 pm

Oh, come on! The study says that the kids do poorly their first year(s), and then they improve, right? Here is an explanation:

The first year(s) of a charter school, most open their doors to any and all students just to make classes. This is when those “students” do poorly. Then, once they have a charter, and they have classes of students, they can weed out the trouble makers and the real dumb kids – and magically the remaining kids do better!

Imagine that!

If only a public school could do the same…..

Alvin eats karma for breakfast

June 19th, 2009
3:55 am

Alvin sure didn’t mind using his buds in the General Assembly to change the rules of the game when it came to wanting to increase his power. Now that others have used the General Assembly to have options when Napolealvin-that’s his nickname right?-wants to have Alvin control instead of local control he cries foul.

Only thing I smell that’s foul is a certain bureaucrat’s hypocrisy.


June 19th, 2009
10:14 am

I agree with you comment about Alvin, I will include members of the Board. Alvin thinks his staff is above being held accountable for ethic violations. Yes, he hired an African American to recruit minorities upon discovering his directors were discriminately terminating minority employees, yet he turned around and promoted those (guilty) directors into executive positions based upon favoritism and his personal beliefs. I still think he is discriminating against individuals with disabilities, because he did not hold people responsible for their actions. Why would you want a person like this running your school? He is out of touch and I really think his support comes more from a fear of having a minority controlled system, rather than leadership in education. Charter schools are designed to reflect the community, their problems, and raising and educating future citizens.

public school parent

June 19th, 2009
3:58 pm

I think charter schools, because of the legislative rules around funding them in Georgia, do a disservice to children and their communities. They are just another way for the state to step out of huge funding obligations in the guise of “helping” people have broader access to “quality” schools. If families can’t afford to pay significantly for what is essentially semi-private education, they can’t afford to fund a charter school appropriately. That’s not fair to the students who attend.