Navigating Newly Chartered Waters: An Analysis of Texas Charter School Performance, Texas Public Policy Forum

The charter schools of the Lone Star State have been much in the news of late, particularly as the legislature grappled with a possible moratorium on their creation. That didn't happen, but people are understandably interested in how they're doing. After all, by 1999-2000, there were 142 such schools enrolling nearly 25,000 youngsters. How are they doing? The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) commissioned two Texas A & M economists to examine four years worth of charter data. The most encouraging result: Texas's so-called at-risk charter schools (about half of all the state's charters, each serving more than 75 percent at-risk kids) showed stronger pupil achievement gains than regular public schools. But the other charters aren't. The authors also note that many youngsters entering a charter for the first time, especially if it's a brand new school, experience a one-year drop in scores on the Texas statewide tests. They comment that, at a time when many new charters are opening and many children are newly enrolled in them, "A one-year look at average changes in test scores for charter students will mainly capture the decline in performance of the new entrants." They further observe that charters are serving "a disproportionately large share of at-risk students, minority students and economically disadvantaged students." And, being economists, they note that the charter schools are cost-efficient. If you'd like to see for yourself, the fastest way to contact TPPF is by surfing to http://www.tppf.org.

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