Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Another Study Compares Charter Schools With Public Schools 

Lots of charter school news today. Here Sam Dillon and Diana Jean Schemo from the New York Times summarize a study by the Department of Education which demonstrates that traditional public schools are doing better academically compared to charters with similar student populations. The reporters provide an excellent summary of the studies so far:

The study follows several recent efforts to track charter performance, including a report by the American Federation of Teachers, which showed students in charter schools lagging behind their public school peers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Advocates of charter schools, including Education Secretary Rod Paige, criticized that report for generalizing about charter schools, which offer extremely varied educational programs in states from Massachusetts to Oregon.

Partly in response to the A.F.T. report, a Harvard economics professor, Caroline M. Hoxby, sped up release of a study she had been conducting comparing students in charter schools nationwide with students in the nearest neighborhood school, and with the closest public school with a similar racial makeup.

She found charter students were 4 percent more likely to have mastered reading and 2 percent more likely to have mastered math than students at the neighborhood schools. The proficiency levels increased by one percentage point in each subject when she compared charters to local schools with a similar racial makeup. Dr. Hoxby's strongest findings were in Washington, D.C.

Her report also provoked debate, with charter supporters praising her methods and findings and other researchers, who have tried to replicate her data, criticizing her for excluding some Washington charter schools from her study set and using a lower measure to determine success in charter schools.

Another recent study of charter schools in Washington, where 17 percent of publicly educated students attend charters, found that charters were somewhat more likely to enroll low-income students than regular public schools, less likely to enroll students with limited English, and as likely as traditional schools to enroll disabled students, said Mark Schneider, a political science professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a co-author. The study was financed by the National Science Foundation.

The new Education Department report found that 43 percent of charter students were from low-income families, compared with 38 percent in regular public schools nationwide. Nine percent of charter students were disabled, compared with 12 percent in regular public schools, it said.

The new report attracted immediate criticism from groups representing charter schools.

I say it is too soon to see real progress regarding test scores with charter schools. But just wait!

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