How could cities see their charter school sectors take off in quality, matching or besting the performance of their district schools, and the state? Public Impact researchers working with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on a new study found that replacing low-performing charter schools while replicating high-performing ones could dramatically improve quality within just a few years. (For Fordham’s take on this, see the Ohio Gadfly Daily.)
Searching for Excellence: A Five-City, Cross-State Comparison of Charter School Quality, with research by Lyria Boast, Gillian Locke, and Tom Koester, and foreword and Fordham analysis by Terry Ryan and Aaron Churchill, considered charter schools in Albany, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis—all of which have a decade-long history of charter schools and relatively large market shares of charter school students.
The study shows that the charter school sectors in five cities outperformed their home districts’ schools, which had similar levels of student poverty.
The study points the way to improving the quality of charter schools overall
But within each district, quality varied widely, from very high-performing charter schools to dismal ones.
The study also compared charter performance to average statewide performance—admittedly, a higher bar, as schools statewide had significantly lower levels of poverty than the charters (and their urban districts). Charters in all five cities trailed the state overall—often by a wide margin.
Clearly, something needs to change in cities’ stance toward both their lowest-performing and high-performing charters. And that’s where the study has good news, pointing the...