In a new report from the Center for Public Education, charter schools get a big picture review. The findings reflect the mixed results of other charter studies and suggest caution before any state, including Georgia, assumes that more charter schools equal more achievement.
The report concludes that it’s imperative that more research take place as charter schools are expected to surge in numbers with the emphasis on them by the Obama White House. The report states:
Charters are largely misunderstood – only 41 percent of voters even know that charter schools are in fact public schools. The incomplete research base behind charters means that many states may be heading into a reform strategy without a clear understanding of how charter schools work best, or how they interact with and affect traditional public schools. Charter schools need more research, oversight, and true evaluation to fulfill their purpose of being laboratories that traditional public schools can learn from.
Key findings of the report:
-Reliable charter school research is still in its infancy. One recent analysis rejected 70 out of the 210 studies it found. Many studies are descriptive snapshots of a school or district’s achievement, rather than examining achievement across states or comparing charter school achievement to traditional public schools.
-Of the reliable research, studies generally showed that charter school students did better in elementary school reading and middle school math, but worse in high school. The recent Center for Research on Education Outcomes study found that, overall, some (17%) charter schools do better than traditional public schools, but the majority do the same (46%) or worse (37%).
-Local education agencies (school boards) are the most common authorizers of charter schools.
-States with “multiple authorizers” — i.e., various pathways for authorizing charter schools — had the weakest student achievement data for charter students when compared to students at traditional public schools.
-Charter schools remain primarily an urban strategy. The National Charter School Research Project reports that 89 percent of U.S. school districts “have no charter schools within their boundaries, perhaps in large measure because so many school districts are so very small.”
-For profit education management organizations (EMOs) run about 16 percent of all charter schools. (Non-profit EMOs run about 13%.)
-Virtual charters are a small but growing segment of the market. However, very little research is available about the impact of these schools, and what is available indicates “mixed outcomes.”
-Charter schools generally are not drawing the best students away from local traditional public schools, and the racial composition of charters is similar to that of the traditional public schools the students previously attended.