Charter School Performance in New Jersey
Three years ago, Stanford’s Center for Research in Education Outcomes (CREDO) up-ended the conversation on charter school effectiveness with its much-cited study of sixteen states’ charter schools. This new report extends that kind of analysis into the Garden State, where the authors find a bumper crop of quality charters, particularly in Newark. CREDO analysts matched over 10,000 charter students in grades three through eight with “twin” students in traditional public schools (rigorously controlling for a host of student characteristics), tracking them between 2006-07 and 2010-11. The report offers a host of interesting data and solid ammunition for charter proponents in New Jersey—though its findings also raise a few serious questions. First, the good news for charters: Sixty percent of New Jersey charters outpace district learning gains in reading and 70 percent do so in math. And only 11 percent and 13 percent perform significantly worse (for reading and math, respectively). Statewide, charters added about two more months of annual learning in each subject compared to traditional public schools. Newark charters boast an additional seven and nine months’ learning in reading and math over the course of a year, respectively. Large positive effects in math were found for poor students and English language learners in charters, as well as small positive effects for black and Hispanic youngsters. Still, the report reveals shortcomings of charters too (some which—without further explanation—seem incongruous with the findings reported above). Notably, charter students in Jersey’s other four major cities (Camden, Jersey City, Paterson, and Trenton---which, with Newark, comprise the lion’s share of Garden State charters) performed worse in reading than their district peers (and on par in math). The report offers one takeaway: Policies matter—and those in NJ (including strict entry requirements, diligent closings of low-performers, and scaling up quality charters) should be praised, studied, and replicated. Huzzah, New Jersey! And huzzah, Newark!
Center for Research in Education Outcomes, Charter School Performance in New Jersey (Stanford, CA: CREDO, November 1, 2012).