Yesterday, I gave a little history about charter schools. It is important to note that charter schools are just 20 years old so it takes awhile to develop the overall research base. In addition, there are a wide variety of types of charter schools that range from traditional to online…and many would argue that it is difficult to compare the success of a traditional face-to-face charter school with the success of an online charter school. However, researchers continue to explore the various success factors in regards to charter schools.
Success in charter schools is generally measured by student achievement. Proponents of charter schools not only point to student achievement as a measure of success, but also to the growth of charter schools as well as graduation rates and college attendance (Finn et al., 2000, Nathan, 1996). Opponents of charter schools suggest that charter schools are doing no better than traditional public schools with student achievement and are not serving minorities or poor students (Wells, 2002). Overall, it has been found that charter elementary schools show better academic growth when compared with comparable traditional public schools in some academic areas than similar analyses for middle school and high school charter schools. More established charter schools tend to produce stronger academic outcomes as compared to traditional schools (Betts & Tang, 2008).
Individual studies have been conducted regarding charter schools and student achievement throughout the nation. In Boston it was found that students who attend middle school and high school charter schools make significantly larger gains than students who attend traditional public schools (Abdulkadiroglu et al., 2009). In Los Angeles, charter schools outperformed comparable schools according to API growth (Elliot, 2009; Toney & Murdock, 2008). Students who attend the KIPP charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area in California make larger achievement gains than comparable students in traditional public schools (Woodworth, David, Guha, Wang, & Lopez-Torkos, 2006). Hoxby and Rockoff (2005) found that charter schools in Chicago outperformed the surrounding traditional public schools, and later found positive achievement results for charter schools in New York City (Hoxby, Murarka, & Kang, 2009). According to Hill, Angel and Christensen (2006), the five most complete studies regarding charter schools and student achievement show mixed results. Of these studies, two are positive about charter school effects, two report mixed results, and one finds in the negative. A recent Rand Report which analyzed charter school achievement studies found that charter schools have “marginally greater variation” in performance than traditional public schools and that charter schools do not do well in their first year of operation, but improve over time (Zimmer et al., 2009). Wells (2002), based on her extensive study of charter schools in California in 1998, found that there was no strong or consistent evidence that charter schools were improving student achievement. However, the more recent studies regarding charter schools and student achievement suggest that students were achieving at the same or higher level when compared with students in schools in the region where they are located.
Overall, researchers have concluded that in some cases, charter schools perform better than traditional schools while in other cases, traditional schools perform better than charter schools or they both perform well in similar ways.
Regardless, the growth of charter schools indicate that more parents are choosing charter schools as an option for their children.
Abdulkadiroglu, A., Angrist, J., Cohodes, S., Dynarski, S., Fullerton, J., Kane, T., & Pathak, P. (2009). Informing the debate: Comparing Boston’s charter, pilot and traditional schools. Boston, MA: Boston Foundation.
Allen, J., & Consoletti, A. (2010). Annual survey of America’s charter schools. Washington, D.C.: Center for Education Reform. Retrieved March 10, 2010, from http://www.edreform.com/Issues/Charter_Connection/?Annual_Survey_of_Americas_Charter_Schools_2010
Betts, J. R., & Tang, Y. E. (2008). Value-added and experimental studies of the effect of charter schools on student achievement on student achievement. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Bothell.
Finn, C. E., Manno, B. V., & Vanourek, G. (2000). Charter schools in action: renewing public education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hill, P. T., Angel, L., & Christensen, J. (2006). Charter school achievement studies. Seattle, WA: University of Washington.
Hoxby, C. M., Murarka, S., & Kang, J. (2009). How New York City’s charter schools affect achievement. Cambridge, MA: New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project. Retrieved June 30, 2009, from http://www.nber.org/~schools/charterschoolseval/how_NYC_charter_schools_affect_achievement_sept2009.pdf.
Nathan, J. (1996). Charter schools: creating hope and opportunity for American education (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Wells, A. S. (2002). Where charter school policy fails: The problems of accountability and equity. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Zimmer, R., Gill, B., Booker, K., Lavertu, S., Sass, T., & Witte, J. (2009). Charter schools in eight states: Effects on achievement, attainment, integration and competition. Santa Monica, Ca: Rand Corporation. Retrieved December 10, 2009, from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG869/.
**Rob’s Dissertation can be found here.