Student Achievement in Massachusetts??? Charter Schools
|Click to listen to commentary on the report from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
Weary of studies that lump charter schools together and treat them as a monolithic entity? This one, conducted by top-notch researchers at Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research and MIT takes a step in the right direction by parsing effects for urban and nonurban charter schools in Massachusetts. The report is a follow-up to two earlier evaluations that were limited to schools in Boston and Lynn. Once again, analysts conduct both a lottery analysis (comparing students accepted to oversubscribed charters with those who weren’t) and an expanded observational study (comparing students in middle and high school charters operating in the Bay State between 2002 and 2009, including the undersubscribed schools, to those who attended traditional public schools). Overall, the lottery analysis found that charter middle schools boost average math scores but have little impact on average English language arts (ELA) scores. But when the data were disaggregated by school type, researchers found that urban charter middle schools show significant positive effects on ELA and math scores. Nonurban middle schools have the opposite impact: zero to negative effect on a student’s ELA and math state test scores. In fact, while urban charter schools do especially well with minority and low-income students and moderately well for white students, nonurban middle schools fail to show gains for any demographic subgroup, and even post some negative effects for white students. Delving further, the authors survey school administrators, the results showing that the successful urban charter schools tend to have longer days, spend about twice as much time on language and math instruction as nonurban schools, are more likely to ask parents and students to sign contracts, and identify with the “no excuses” view on education. The differences in achievement between the two types of charters, then, should come as little surprise.
Joshua D. Angrist, Sarah R. Cohodes, Susan M. Dynarski, Jon B. Fullerton, Thomas J. Kane, Parag A. Pathak, and Christopher R. Walters, “Student Achievement in Massachusetts’ Charter Schools,” (Cambridge, MA: Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, January 2011).
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