UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 19, 2009

STUDY: CHARTERS NOT AS GOOD AS PUBLIC SCHOOLS

USA News - On average, charter schools are not performing as well as their traditional public-school peers, according to a new study that is being called the first national assessment of these school-choice options. The study, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, compared the reading and math state achievement test scores of students in charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia--amounting to 70 percent of U.S. charter school students--to those of their virtual "twins" in regular schools who shared with them certain characteristics. The research found that 37 percent of charter schools posted math gains that were significantly below what students would have seen if they had enrolled in local traditional public schools. And 46 percent of charter schools posted math gains that were statistically indistinguishable from the average growth among their traditional public-school companions. That means that only 17 percent of charter schools have growth in math scores that exceeds that of their traditional public-school equivalents by a significant amount.

In reading, charter students on average realized a growth that was less than their public-school counterparts but was not as statistically significant as differences in math achievement, researchers said.

Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO and lead author of the report, said at a news conference, "This study shows that we've got a 2-to-1 margin of bad charters to good charters."

The CREDO report identified five states--Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, and Missouri--where charter schools had significantly higher learning gains than traditional schools. . .

The research comes on the heels of a recent pledge by President Barack Obama's education secretary, Arne Duncan, to use $5 billion of the $100 billion in federal stimulus funds for education to press states on charter schools. "States that don't have charter school laws, or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools, will jeopardize their application" for federal grant money, Duncan said in a call with reporters last week. Currently, 10 states lack laws that allow charter schools, and 26 others cap their enrollment.

The Stanford report may offer some encouraging news for charter schools: Students in poverty and English- language learners outperformed their public-school peers in both reading and math. However, learning gains for black and Hispanic charter-school students were significantly lower than those of their traditional- school twins. . .

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