Charter School Authorizers and Student Achievement
This working paper from the Center on Reinventing Public Education – as part of its National Charter School Research Project – examines the impact of charter school authorizers on student achievement. The paper focuses on Ohio, a state that allows a wide variety of entities – public school districts, educational service centers, 13 state universities and 501(c)(3) organizations that meet Ohio Department of Education (ODE) criteria – to authorize (aka, sponsor) charter schools.
Researchers collected longitudinally linked student-level data that spanned from 2004-05 through 2007-08 from ODE. The data were for elementary and middle grades only, and virtual/online charter schools (aka e-schools) were excluded from the study. The report found that when it comes to student achievement in both reading and math, charter schools that were originally authorized by nonprofits, on average, produced the least gains in student achievement, while district-authorized charters had the largest gains (though statistically insignificant). ESC-authorized and state-authorized charters were “statistically indistinguishable” from other charters in both subjects.
The authors note that these findings may reflect Ohio’s ongoing struggle with how to grow and regulate the charter sector, with choice proponents often wishing to expand school choice for the sake of choice (with success defined by the diversity and number of options), and others (including Fordham) cautioning that choice must come with quality controls and a laser focus on performance. The report concludes – and we agree – that the structure of the authorizing entity is not the issue. Regardless of entity type, the key issue is whether the entity is effective at the work of charter school authorizing itself.
“Charter School Authorizers and Student
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Ron Zimmer, Brian Gill, Kaitlin Obenauf
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