Jay P Greene’s
Global Report Card has outlined some strong evidence in support of charter schools:
According to the Global Report Card, more than a third of the 30 school districts
with the highest math achievement in the United States are actually charter schools.
This is particularly impressive considering that charters constitute about
5% of all schools and about 3% of all public school students. And it is even
more amazing considering that some of the highest performing charter schools, like
Roxbury Prep in Boston or KIPP Infinity in New York City, serve very disadvantaged
Greene did acknowledge that this correlation does not prove causality, and argued
a series of academic studies that use 'randomized control trials' – the
method used in medical experiments – more rigorously prove the efficacy
of charter schools.
Here's a run down of the studies:
… a team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, Duke, and the University of Michigan,
conducted a RCT and found: “The charter school effects reported here
are therefore large enough to reduce the black-white reading gap in middle school
From Stanford for the National Bureau of Economic Research:
On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten
through eight would close about 86 percent of the ‘Scarsdale-Harlem achievement
gap’ in math and 66 percent of the achievement gap in English.
The same Stanford researcher also studied Chicago schools:
..students in charter schools outperformed a comparable group of lotteried-out students
who remained in regular Chicago public schools by 5 to 6 percentile points in math
and about 5 percentile points in reading…. To put the gains in perspective,
it may help to know that 5 to 6 percentile points is just under half of the gap
between the average disadvantaged, minority student in Chicago public schools and
the average middle-income, nonminority student in a suburban district.
And lastly Greene summarized a study conducted Mathematica
for the US Department of Education:
It found significant gains for disadvantaged students in charter schools but the
opposite for wealthy suburban students in charter schools. They could not
determine why the benefits of charters were found only in urban, disadvantaged settings,
but their findings are consistent with the three other RCTs that found significant
achievement gains for charter students in Boston, Chicago, and New York City.
For more on what it is that makes charter schools effective check out what the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has to say.
Across the country, public charter schools are creating a wide variety of innovations,
- Curriculum design (e.g., Montessori, Core Knowledge, Advanced Placement Courses,
Foreign Language Immersion Programs, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics)
- Extended learning time
- School cultures with high expectations for all students and adults
- More structured and disciplined learning environments
- Rewarding high-quality teachers with higher pay
- Parent contracts
- Multi-age programs