Josh Smith
The St. Louis Beacon and Kansas City Star both have stories about a recent study from Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes that analyzes charter school performance nationwide, with specific results for Missouri. The news is not all good. According to the report, Missouri is one of only five states to show significantly higher learning rates in charter schools than in traditional public schools. According to the Beacon:
In other findings about Missouri, the report found that:

  • In general, new charter school students experience an initial drop in both reading and math compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools, but they experience no significant drop in reading and math in later years in charter schools.

  • In general, blacks and Hispanics in charter schools achieve significantly more in reading and math compared to their counterparts in public schools.

  • Poor students in charter schools perform significantly worse in both reading and math than their counterparts in traditional public schools.

  • Both special education students and English language learners receive no significant advantages from attending charter schools compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools.


So, according to this report, children in Missouri who attend charter schools experience an initial drop in reading and math, but later, reports the Star, "a Missouri student attending a charter school could expect to learn 'significantly more in reading and math than they would if they went to a traditional public school in the same community.'"

This study is another data point to add to the case for charters. Nationwide, however, the study found that many individual charter students fared worse than comparable students in traditional schools.

The beauty of charter schools is that they are not all one beast. They offer a variety of options for different types of students, and students with different needs. Let's relish the bad results as a learning opportunity for other charters, now and in the future, and relish the good results here in Missouri as a sign that charter schools offer a viable alternative to troubled traditional public schools.

I leave you with a statement from The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, quoted in another article about the CREDO study:
"The CREDO report confirms what several other studies previously indicated: in states and communities where there are high standards for school quality and authorizers are performing their duties well, students in public charter schools are making solid academic progress. Where large numbers of schools have been created without a rigorous application process and adequate authorizer oversight, the results are unsatisfactory," said Nelson Smith, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“We are encouraged by the ground-breaking results being achieved by many public charter schools across the country,” said Smith. “However, if high-quality performance is to become the norm for public charter schools, we need to ramp up our efforts to replicate what’s working as well as enhance our work to ‘remove the barriers to exit’ and make it easier to close chronically low-performing charters.”

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