Charter school students in New York outperform their peers

A New York Times story reports that charter school students in New York City outperform their peers who applied for admission to the charters but did not get in. (New York City uses a lottery to admit students to its charter schools so the charge can’t be lodged that charters select only the cream of the crop.)

This is one of the strongest findings in favor of charter schools.  The study, which is being released today, was done by Stanford economist Caroline M. Hoxby.

Here’s a link to the study itself.

While localized to New York schools, this study will likely be cited as evidence of the efficacy of charters, which are a critical plank in the Obama-Duncan education reform blueprint.

I know there’s been a lot of debate on Gwinnett’s Ivy Preparatory Academy on this blog. (It’s in the entry below on charter schools.)  But I think we will continue to see more charters here and across the country.

13 comments Add your comment


September 22nd, 2009
1:40 pm

“A New York Times story reports that charter school students in New York City outperform their peers who applied for admission to the charters but did not get in.”

In other words, if you put an average and above student in a “regular” classroom that has a percentage of students who are disruptive and/or unable to keep up, the quality of education for the average and above student will suffer.

They didn’t need to commission a study, though. I’ve been preaching that sermon for years.


September 22nd, 2009
2:01 pm

Lee hits at the heart of the weakness of this study and others like it. The claims made at the outset of the report say that it is the “gold standard” of research. However, they miss this mark (and don’t mention it) because the study does not randomly assign from all possible students. It only examines those students whose parents have shown a demonstrated interest in their child’ education. Other than the haughty claims, the study seems to be well done.

Can you imagine teaching in a school where the entire population CHOSE to be there? In this setting, the value structure is in place from the very beginning. Most schools have to deal with kids and families that have little regard for education. This is not something that is the fault of the schools, but it is a cultural issue many politicians choose to ignore.

So, of course, students whose families choose for them to be in a charter school will have better results. I’m pretty sure you would get the same effect if you analyzed the results within a purely traditional school where all the children were present because the families chose to be there. This does not lead me to become an advocate of pure choice models, though. People generally make this kind of choice by locating their residence in an area with good schools. By doing this, they are aligning with other families that share similar values. As a result, the schools in those areas tend to do quite well. In Georgia, Forsyth and Fayette counties come to mind.

While this study provides plenty of insight into the results of student achievement for the charter schools in NYC, it does not provide evidence to suggest that charter schools are the cure all for education.


September 22nd, 2009
4:14 pm

Tony said,

While this study provides plenty of insight into the results of student achievement for the charter schools in NYC, it does not provide evidence to suggest that charter schools are the cure all for education.

I agree and might also suggest this produces evidence that choice may be the cure all for education.


September 23rd, 2009
12:21 am

Caroline Hoxby, who conducted this so-called “study,” is not an impartial academic researcher. She’s a longtime, high-profile proponent of free-market “solutions” and privatization. Her work should not be treated like credible academic research; it’s advocacy — or propaganda, if you will.

I’m really shocked that the mainstream press is not even including disclaimers to this effect in its massive hyping of this so-called study. That truly violates media standards and ethics, and misleads the reader.

Here an analysis of the flawed study itself, by a New York blogger. But to me it’s also a huge issue that the press has simply abandoned its standards and ethics by reporting on this propaganda as if it were credible academic research.


September 23rd, 2009
9:57 am

Community members and leaders should go to visit Ivy Prep. Perspectives shift about well run public charter schools when you move outside the comfort zone of reviewing documents, reading newspapers, and take that step inside a school that is not only high achieving academically but which has also removed so many bureaucratic obstacles from its path and is actually impacting hundreds of students lives.

Last week I introduced a family friend whose student is zoned to attend a NI high school in Gwinnett County, a school which has been performing poorly for years, to Ivy Preparatory Academy. This was only my second visit to Ivy Preparatory Academy since its opening. The first was the evening before to listen to the attorneys speak to the parents about the lawsuit and answer all the questions. The room was packed with parents and student scholars, the parking lot was full. The energy was palpable.

Hate to compare but has the GCPS board allowed their attorneys or God forbid the school board members to stand in front of the public and ask questions ? Oops, and get them answered ? Not on your life. That was my first experience with the obvious. There is a real difference between a true charter operation and GCPS. Free information flow to the parents first of all – and parents engaged. Not a speech to the chamber of commerce, not to the politicians, or to “local leaders”, but a real question and answer session for the parents and students. Local schools and most certainly the district absolutely have not been able to recreate this inclusive atmosphere. Frankly, we are just too big of a system and moved too slowly as a district to provide smaller and more focused educational options for students.

The second realization came during my visit itself the next day. 150 6th grade girls reading pleasure books – each one of them quietly and in the lunchroom. Harry Potter, JR Tolkien, Junie B Jones and so many other worlds opening up before my eyes. Grades posted outside every classroom, allowing any parent, student, or administrator the academic achievement stats by student number and by class. In the 7th grade hall, student council posters adorning each wall. Spanish classes focused on Spanish for native speakers – as well as non native speakers. Skate parties planned for the weekend. Math application classes using verbal responses as a learning tool. Girls who call their classmates, “my big sister, my little sister” as a way of formal introduction. Amazingly vibrant and warm teachers.

I can say with a great deal of confidence that as the community walks into this public charter school and sees what is going on, the worse it is going to get for Alvin Wilbanks. He needs to fold em and walk away from trying to close this school.

Just take the time to visit the school and when the ultimate question is asked “what is in the best interest of the child ?” and “why exactly is GCPS trying to make this schools charter null and void ?”- both answers will be obvious — even to a judge.


September 23rd, 2009
10:33 am

As to CarolineSF’s assertion that the study’s author is “not an impartial academic researcher,” who says that advocates can’t do good research? If Hoxby is presenting conclusions not based on demonstrable, provable facts, don’t you think she’ll be called out on that?

I have started a lot of charters in Georgia, and I’ve visited a lot of others, and I cannot begin to express the difference that local governance and parental choice make in public education.

And the BEST advocates of chartering are its former opponents. Get involved!


September 24th, 2009
6:30 pm

One can make a case that advocates can do good research, and that the research might be valid.

One cannot make a case that it’s sound journalism to misrepresent a “report” that is a piece of advocacy by a partisan as impartial academic research, however. It’s a journalistic sin not to identify Hoxby as a partisan and her work as advocacy or propaganda — that omission by the press is either sloppy research or unethical journalism.

Hoxby is in fact being called out on the quality of her methodology (see the link i posted previously), but as a journalist I am calling out my colleagues on their outrageous lapse. Misleading the readers is unforgiveable.


September 25th, 2009
11:22 pm

@Tony, don’t think that just because parents choose to put their students in a charter school that they care more or that they will be more involved. My child had a project due this week and she had a partner that was waiting for her to finish the project and email it to her. Then her partner told her that she was going to put her name on it and they could turn it in. I put a stop to that and called the other scholars’ parents who had no idea that they scholar’s had been assigned a project the week earlier. I had to have my daughter do the project herself and turn it in. And the kicker is that the other scholars’ parent said that maybe our two kids dont need to be partnered together anymore! I was shocked. That is all that parent got out of our conversation. Needless to say, the other scholars’ work was not up to the excellence of my daughters because she didn’t apply herself.

My point is that not all students have their parents support just because they are at a charter school. Charter school students face the same problems as children from other schools.


September 27th, 2009
3:23 am

Charter Starter,

Any suggestions on how to get involved? This public school teacher is open to suggestions. Thanks!

I’ve heard positives and negatives based mostly upon how well organized the structure of the charter school is. I am in agreeance with those who state that charters aren’t the cure all. Charters and choice schools are a viable solution for families that care about their children’s education (regardless of socioeconomics or education background of the parents). I say this based on my experience teaching at a school of choice here in GA that happens to have full Title I status.

Working with students who come from environments that are poverty stricken, have uninvolved parents, and/or where discipline and proper manners are not taught or enforced will pose a special challenge for our society in the 21st century. I can work with any student grappling with the first two, it’s the kids with discipline problems I have difficulty tolerating; however, we cannot afford to ignore, overlook, or shut out this segment of the population. Eventually, they will make themselves known by means of crime, relying on the gov’t to take care of them, etc. We need to be open to any and all solutions placed in front of us. Shouldn’t self-reliance be a goal so that as taxpayers we aren’t being held accountable for these citizens?


September 27th, 2009
4:48 pm

While there are *some* parents who may not care about their child’s education, but many single parents simply aren’t ABLE to be involved because they’re working their a$$es off to make ends meet.

We’ve got to stop assuming that parents don’t care about education just because of the neighborhood they live in, their race, or their marital status.

When I taught in ATL, I had many absentee parents….but most of them cared about their children and were often ashamed or guilt-ridden about their inability to do more.


September 27th, 2009
4:52 pm

I support charter schools for a few reasons:

1) They have flexibility in staffing, scheduling, and budgeting….and allow entrepreneurial/innovative leaders to run schools in new ways.

2) It gives choice to parents who care about education but can’t afford private school.

3) It allows schools to expect involvement and accountability from parents (What a concept!)

4) They are fundamentally market-driven….the schools aren’t forced to stay open. They’re only there as long as they can keep and attract students…which is added incentive to get the job done.


September 27th, 2009
4:54 pm

When I taught in ATL, I taught at a traditional middle school….with a charter school right down the road.

It’s a false assumption to say that charter school parents care more….or that traditional school parents care less.

Many families I knew had students at BOTH schools.


October 1st, 2009
12:43 am

Yes, MBW, but parents who don’t have the motivation or resources to take any interest in their children’s education will not be found at charter schools, because they would have to make an effort to enroll their kids in a charter school. Parents who DO care about their kids’ education will be found at both charter and public schools, but parents who don’t give a **** will not be found at charter schools. And the children of those parents are more likely, overall, to struggle academically and to have other challenges.