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Charter school enrollment is soaring in America, with a nearly 1 million increase in enrollment and nearly 3,000 new schools from 2000 to 2009. The movement has backers like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.There’s only one problem. Nothing has shown that charter schools perform better than public schools.
A big study out this month from the centre on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research found that charter schools had test scores that were “marginally positive but not statistically distinguishable from the effects of other public schools nearby.” More from the study:
The average impacts obscure large variations in impacts for individual CMOs. Most of the CMOs in our sample have impacts that are statistically significant in all measured academic subjects, either positively or negatively. After two years of enrollment, more CMOs have significant positive impacts than have significant negative impacts. The differences between high-performing and lowperforming CMOs after two years of enrollment are large enough to be equivalent to a year or more of learning.
The largest positive impacts observed are in maths, but within CMOs, impacts are correlated across subjects. CMOs with positive impacts in one subject tend to have positive impacts in other subjects, and we find no evidence that CMOs with positive impacts in reading and maths have focused on those to the exclusion of lower-stakes subjects such as science and social studies. There is some evidence that CMO expansion can diminish student impacts in reading, but nevertheless, large CMOs in our sample more frequently have positive impacts than do small CMOs. Finally, several CMOs appear to have larger impacts for Hispanics relative to their impacts on other students, but we find little evidence that effects differ for other groups of students, defined in terms of gender, prior achievement, or income (as measured by free or reduced-price lunch eligibility).
A 2009 study by Rand Corporation drew similar conclusions: “there is little evidence that charter schools are producing, on average, achievement impacts that differ substantially from those of traditional public schools.”
So why are so many students, teachers and money flooding into charter schools? People are willing to try anything to keep their kids out of American public schools.
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