Education Vital Signs: Charters & Vouchers

It seems everyone has an opinion about vouchers and charter schools, yet few of the major questions swirling these often-controversial “choice” programs have been answered. Do charters  perform better than traditional pubic schools? A Stanford University study found that only 17 percent of charter schools perform significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent produce results that are worse. Other studies also raise numerous questions about the promise of charter schools as well as vouchers. Do they cull better performing students, and those with more involved parents, from regular public schools? And is this an acceptable tradeoff for giving some parent more choices for their children? Finally, have charters become the incubators of reform? as many policymakers have hoped.

Charter school administration
A report from the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, based on expenditure data from Michigan’s 265 charter schools, finds that charter schools spend almost $800 more per pupil per year on administration than do traditional public schools, and $1,100 less on instruction. The report, Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools?, says that charters operated by for-profit firms spend an additional $312 more per pupil per year on administration than other charters, further reducing the money available to these charters for instruction.
March 2012

EMO Performance

Education management organizations (EMOs) run 35 percent of public charter schools and are responsible for educating 40 percent of all public charter school students, according to the National Education’s review of charter school management programs. However, 51.8 percent of schools run by for-profit EMOs failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in 2010-11, as did 72.6 percent of the online schools run by for profit EMOs. Nonprofit EMOs fared better; 56.4 percent of those did make AYP.

January 2012

What’s Trust Got to Do with It?

What’s Trust Got to Do with It?, a report from Public Agenda of parents’ views about their persistently failing public schools and possible solutions such as charter schools, finds five important emerging themes: Parents with children in low-performing schools want change; parents remain loyal to their local schools despite low performance; parents often do not realize how inadequate their schools are; broader social problems intensify the effects of poor school performance; and many parents are suspicious of district decision-makers.

December 2011

Charter School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts

A new study from Mathematica Policy Research, Charter School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts, finds that increased student achievement is linked to two factors: monitoring and coaching teachers for better performance, and well-enforced schoolwide behavior policies, including signed agreements with students and parents. The study also found that CMOs have smaller class sizes, provide more instructional time, and are more likely to pay their teachers based on performance.

November 2011


Find your stats here

The National Chamber Foundation and the Institute for a Competitive Workforce have launched an interactive map comparing states’ performance within nine K-12 education categories: standards, graduation rates, data systems, achievement gaps, charter school laws, student achievement, return on investment, teacher policies, and Race to the Top participation.

May 2011

Eliminating the Achievement Gap

A new white paper from the Center for Reinventing Public Education argues that partnering with high-performing charter schools can help superintendents overcome the achievement gap in their schools.Eliminating the Achievement Gap says that superintendents who adopt a “portfolio” management strategy for their districts that includes charter schools can overcome political dynamics that typically hamper reform efforts. It suggests that superintendents learn to leverage strategies frequently used in charter schools, such as focusing on school culture and parent involvement, extended school days, ongoing diagnostics and interventions, and intensive professional development.

June 2011

Preparing for Growth: Human Capital Innovations in Charter Public Schools

A new report, Preparing for Growth: Human Capital Innovations in Charter Public Schools, by the Center for American Progress, analyzes strategies used by six charter management organizations (Green Dot Public Schools, High Tech High, IDEA Public Schools, Knowledge Is Power Program, Rocketship Education, and YES Prep Schools) to ensure an adequate number of charter school leaders in the pipeline. It finds three key strategies: standardizing recruitment and preparation processes for new hires, developing leadership in teachers and principals, and hiring highly talented outside management.

May 2011

The Promise of College Completion: KIPP’s Early Successes and Challenges

A study of Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools shows that 33 percent of the graduates of the high-minority (95 percent are African-American or Latino), high-poverty (85 percent qualify for free or reduced-price meals) of KIPP have attained a bachelor’s degree within 10 years of attending the middle school program. Slightly more than 30 percent of all Americans aged 25 to 29 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and only 8.3 percent of low-income students attain a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s.

May 2011

Inside Charter Schools: Unlocking Doors to Student Success
The autonomy given to charter schools puts the importance of teamwork and relationships in schools in high relief, with trust an essential component of any charter school’s viability, says a new study, Inside Charter Schools: Unlocking Doors to Student Success, by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. The study says many charter schools have used their autonomy to negotiate contracts with teachers in new ways; provide innovative programming for diverse student interests and needs; increase disadvantaged-student access to college prep programs; make school leaders “captains of their own ship”; and assemble their staffs in new and innovative ways.
February 2011

Adding Up the Spending
Adding Up the Spending, a new brief about fiscal disparities among New York City (NYC) charter schools, says that while some NYC charters receive almost no private donations, other, well-endowed charters receive plenty of additional private funding—sometimes $10,000 per pupil more than traditional public schools have to spend. The brief also says that the city’s Board of Education gives almost half of the NYC charters a public facility to use, putting those charters ahead of the financial game even without donations. The brief points out, however, that these well-funded charter schools do not noticeably outperform traditional public schools; little or no relationship was found between spending and test scores.
January 2011

Measuring Charter Performance
A review of 203 studies examining charter school achievement, “Measuring Charter Performance,” finds that, “more often than not,” charter school students experience achievement gains similar to or greater than those experienced by students in traditional public schools. The review also found that those studies using the best data and research techniques showed charter students outperforming students in traditional public schools, and that there was evidence showing that the longer students are enrolled in a charter school, the greater their achievement gains compared to traditional public school students.
December 2010

Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations: 2009-2010
A new report from the National Education Policy Center says that half of the public schools run by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB in 2009-10. Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations: 2009-2010, finds that, the larger an EMO was, the worse it performed, and “virtual school” EMOs performed worst of all.
December 2010

You’re Leaving?
Seventy-one percent of the 400 charter school leaders surveyed for You’re Leaving? expect to leave their schools within five years. Charter schools are particularly vulnerable when leadership turns over because charter schools may not have a pool of ready candidates (especially independent charter schools), may operate in politically antagonistic environments, or require a leader who is a very close “fit” with the school and its mission.
November 2010

Next Generation Charter Schools
Almost 24 percent of all charter school students are Latino. Four of the five states with the highest number of charter schools are also among the five states with the highest Latino enrollments—Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. A new report, Next Generation Charter Schools, outlines strategies that have proved effective in serving Latinos and ELLs in charter and traditional public schools, such as expanding learning time and setting high expectations for all students’ achievement.
September 2010

False Impression: How a Widely Cited Study Vastly Overstates the Benefits of Charter Schools
Provisions of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, and positive publicity about the results of Caroline Hoxby’s recent study of a charter school in New York City, are causing district leaders to jump on the charter school bandwagon too quickly, says a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. The report, False Impression: How a Widely Cited Study Vastly Overstates the Benefits of Charter Schools, uncovers a number of serious flaws in Hoxby’s study, and urges school leaders to wait for more conclusive data before becoming charter school disciples.
August 2010

Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools Odds are 130 percent higher that a charter school teacher will leave the profession than a traditional public school teacher. Turnover is worst in start-up charters, where teachers are almost twice as likely to quit teaching, and almost three times as likely to change schools, as teachers at conversion charters. Charter school teachers tend to be younger, part-time, and uncertified, says the National Center on School Choice’s report, Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools.
July 2010

Evaluation of Charter School Impacts
Evaluation of Charter School Impacts shows that, on average, 36 lottery-based charter middle schools performed the same as their traditional cohorts in raising math and reading test scores. Charter schools in urban areas, and those serving more low-income and low achieving students, were more effective in improving math test scores than other charter schools in the study. Students and their parents had higher school satisfaction, but grade promotion, attendance, and student conduct were not improved.
June 2010

The State of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans
New Orleans public schools constitute the nation’s most extensive charter school experiment, but it has not been an unqualified success. A new report from the Institute on Race and Policy, The State of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans, says that charter schools have helped create a “separate and unequal tiered system of schools,” where white students are steered into selective, higher-performing schools, and students of color are steered into lower-performing schools.
June 2010

Early Achievement Impacts of the Harlem Success Academy Charter School in New York City
A new study by University of Pennsylvania researchers shows that students who entered the Harlem Success Academy lottery and lost ended up performing substantially worse than those who won. Students who won the lottery and attended the Harlem Success Academy scored 16 percent higher in mathematics and 17 percent higher in English Language Arts in third grade than those students who lost the lottery. Those who never entered the lottery did worst of all.
April 2010

Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System
Do charter schools increase or decrease segregation? A study of 968 schools from the Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit, Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System, concludes that charter schools are substantially more segregated by race, income, ability, and English language fluency than their home public school districts.
February 2010

Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations
A new study of education management organizations (EMOs), the private firms that manage charter schools or public schools under contract, reveals very little growth in the for-profit public school management industry. Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Organizations, produced by the Commercialism in Education and Education Policy Research units at Arizona State University, shows many larger EMOs expanding into supplemental education services.
September 2009

Food for Thought: Building a High-Quality School Choice Market
“You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink.” This ancient adage sums up Education Sector’s findings on attempts to apply free market rules to public education systems. Offering new market options such as charter schools in a school district apparently does not guarantee that consumers (parents) will make good choices or even use the new options.
May 2009

Charter Schools in Eight States: Effects on Achievement, Attainment, Integration, and Competition
The RAND Corp. has studied charter schools in Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia, Denver, Milwaukee, and the states of Ohio, Texas, and Florida, using longitudinal, student-level data across multiple communities and varied charter laws. The RAND study finds scant evidence that charters produce achievement substantially different from that of traditional public schools. It cautions, however, that the evidence is incomplete: Elementary schools—a substantial proportion of all charters—aren’t easily assessed.
March 2009

Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program: Impacts After Three Years
The Department of Education’s recent evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s voucher program found a statistically significant improvement in reading among voucher participants. However, a new review of the data points out that an improvement of only one-sixth of a standard deviation in reading, and no statistically significant improvement in math, is at best a modest achievement -- too modest to justify the voucher program’s continuation.
March 2009

Local Demand for School Choice: Evidence from the Washington Charter School Referenda
A study of precinct-level returns from three charter school ballot referenda in Washington state conducted by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at the Teachers College of Columbia University shows that while low student achievement does predict greater support for charters across school districts, the strongest predictor of support at all levels was political affiliation. Republican voters were consistently more likely to vote in favor of charter schools.
February 2009

Informing the Debate: Comparing Boston’s Charter, Pilot and Traditional Schools
Boston’s charter schools significantly outperform the city's traditional schools, according to a report that raises new questions about the city's experimental pilot schools. Those schools, according to the Boston Foundation, posted "ambiguous" or "disconcerting" results. The study examined state standardized test scores for students of similar backgrounds at the three kinds of schools over a four-year period.
January 2009

Achievement and Attainment in Chicago Charter Schools
Students who attend charter high schools are more likely to graduate and go on to college than students who attend traditional public schools, according to a study of Chicago Schools by the RAND Corp. The study said elementary and middle school students who attend charter schools do no better as a whole than students in traditional public schools, but those individuals who do are 7 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 11 percent more likely to attend college.

CREDO National Charter School Study
More than one third of charter schools nationwide delivers learning results that are significantly worse than would have been realized by traditional public schools, according to a Stanford University study that is the first national assessment of charter school impacts. The study, which looks at more than 70 percent of the students in charter schools in the U.S., says 17 percent of them provide superior education opportunities for students, but nearly half have results that are no different from those of traditional public schools.

Mapping the Landscape of Charter Management Organizations
Growing numbers of charter schools are operating as networks through nonprofit groups called Charter Management Organizations, or CMOs, according to a national study by the University of Southern California’s Center on Educational Governance. CMOs provide an umbrella structure under which three or more charter schools operate, and strike a balance between oversight and independence of the schools, the study says.

Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools: A Comparison with Achievement in Traditional Public Schools
Students in Florida’s school voucher program are performing no better or no worse than their counterparts in public schools, according to a state-commissioned study. But the study, which reviewed changes in scores from 2006-07 to 2007-08, says at least one more year of data is needed before it can be determined whether the program is working.|

Top 10 Charter Communities by Market Share
In 14 communities across America, charter schools now enroll more than one in five public school students. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ new report, Top 10 Charter Communities by Market Share, demand for charter schools remains strongest in urban areas. This means that, even though charter students represent a small number of America’s total student enrollment, charter “market share” is rapidly increasing in cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and their immediate suburbs. In fact, more than one-third of all public school students in Detroit (32 percent), Washington, D.C. (36 percent), and New Orleans (57 percent) are currently enrolled in those cities’ charter schools.

The Forgotten Choice? Rethinking Magnet Schools in a Changing Landscape
Magnet schools have become the forgotten choice in many communities, according to a report released by The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. The study, The Forgotten Choice? Rethinking Magnet Schools in a Changing Landscape, highlights some of the key challenges facing magnet programs in light of the Supreme Court’s limits on race-conscious desegregation efforts. According to the report, magnet schools, which operate in 31 states and enroll more than 2 million students, are being marginalized in national debates and policy regarding public school options.
November 2008

What Do We Know About the Outcomes of KIPP Schools?
A new policy brief concludes that available evidence indicates that the KIPP charter school system is indeed providing good opportunities for students, but it also warns that some claims are exaggerated; the current evidence incomplete and policymakers should proceed with cautious optimism. The policy brief, What Do We Know About the Outcomes of KIPP Schools? was released by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
November 2008

Plotting School Choice: The Challenges of Crossing District Lines
A new Education Sector report, Plotting School Choice: The Challenges of Crossing District Lines, examines the proximity of students in low-performing public schools to higher-performing schools in three states. Using Geographic Information Systems mapping technology and school performance data, the researcher pinpoints which areas are most and least likely to benefit from interdistrict school choice.
August 2008

Charter School Performance in Los Angelese Unified School District: A District and Neighborhood Matched Comparison Analysis
The California Charter Schools Association released an analysis of charter schools in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) comparing charter and traditional public schools performance. It found that charters in LAUSD outperform traditional public schools on a variety of student achievement measures.
June 2008

Fair Trade: Five Deals to Expand and Improve Charter Schooling
Fair Trade: Five Deals to Expand and Improve Charter Schooling, a new report by the Washington, D.C.-based Education Sector, offers policy solutions to bring charter supporters and critics together. The report says both sides should consider striking bargains that address the legitimate concerns of charter school critics.
January 2008

Satisfied, Optimistic, Yet Concerned
The Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally funded voucher program that serves low-income students in the District of Columbia, is making progress in handling safety issues and is working to make academics a higher priority, according to a report by the School Choice Demonstration Center. The report -- Satisfied, Optimistic, Yet Concerned -- says parents want direct contact with school officials rather than newsletters or publications.
December 2007

The Effect of Charter Schools on Non-Charter Students: An Instrumental Variables Approach
Proponents of charter schools say the competition they provide is an incentive for non-charters to improve student performance, but a new paper published by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education says it is not clear whether schools respond in this way. The report says the impact on test scores is still unknown.
November 2007

Achievement and Behavior in Charter Schools: Drawing a More Complete Picture
The growing popularity of charter schools is more a result of students’ improved behavior and better attendance than higher achievement, according to Achievement and Behavior in Charter Schools: Drawing a More Complete Picture. The study by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, based at Teachers College, Columbia University, looked at an unnamed large urban school district and examined attendance records as well as test scores. While test scores may vary, the authors note, parent and student satisfaction generally remains high across the board.
October 2007

Information Underload: Florida’s Flawed Special Ed Voucher Program
A lack of accountability in Florida’s McKay Scholarship program for students with disabilities is a flaw that must be addressed before the success of the program can be assessed, says Information Underload: Florida’s Flawed Special Ed Voucher Program by the Washington-based Education Sector.
June 2007

2007 Annual Survey of America's Charter School
The number of charter schools nationwide grew by 11 percent in 2006, serving a student body that is on average 53 percent minority and 54 percent low-income, according to the 2007 Annual Survey of America's Charter Schools, released by the Center for Education Reform. For more than a decade, charter schools have experienced double-digit annual growth, with the main attractions being focused curricula and small class sizes.
April 2007