Education Researchers Find Ample Evidence Public Charter Schools Can Help Our Students Do Better

Oct 17, 2012 | Articles, Featured, News

SEATTLE – Washington’s voters will in November again decide whether to allow charter schools in Washington…

The writers of the ballot measure that would allow the independent public schools to get a foothold in Washington say they designed their proposal to create the best charter school system in the nation. The proposal would open as many as 40 charter schools over five years, they say, and would offer hope for struggling kids and their families. …

Mike Bernard, an accountant and business owner from Bellevue, says his analysis led him to change his mind about charter schools since his days on the Issaquah School Board in the 1990s.

“If you spend any time at all working in schools, you realize how little changes, and how any opportunity to shake the system is probably a good thing,” Bernard said.

He doesn’t expect that charter schools would offer answers to all the problems in Washington public schools, but he thinks it would be silly not to give them a chance.

“I see very little downside and some good will certainly come of it,” he said. …

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says there have been as many as 200 studies of charter school effectiveness, but only a handful used high-quality, scientific methods. Some of those studies, however, showed charter schools were effective at helping low-income students do better.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education distrust any study that does not compare charter students with their counterparts in a nearby district school.

UW researchers say that a review of the studies like this show ample evidence that charter elementary schools on average modestly outperform traditional public schools in both reading and math, and that charter middle schools do slightly better in math. Urban charters have better success rates than suburban or rural schools, they reported in a research brief on charter school achievement. Research has found no improvement in high school.

But when research focuses on just one charter school or just one charter management organization, the results can be more dramatic for a much smaller group of children.

Students at California-based KIPP Public Charter Schools, for example, have shown statistically significant improvement in reading and math over a one-year period.

Smaller, targeted studies don’t always offer good news for charters. Researchers have documented poor results in Ohio and North Carolina and good results in Idaho, Massachusetts, New York and Delaware, the University of Washington researchers said. …