[lg policy] Texas charter school students lag behind, study says

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 17 21:37:01 UTC 2009

Texas charter school students lag behind, study says
By SHIRLEY JINKINSsyjinkins at star-telegram.com

A national study released by Stanford University on Monday said
minority students in Texas public charter schools do worse in reading
and math than those in traditional public schools. And overall, a
typical student in a Texas charter school learns significantly less
than his or her traditional school counterpart, the study says. But
English-language learners, students from low-income families and
students enrolled for several years benefit from attending charter
schools, the study says.

The Stanford report covers 16 states and analyzes five years of data,
concluding with the 2006-07 school year.  It focused on students in
third through 11th grade because they take state assessment tests,
which were the mark to measure achievement. To compare academic
growth, the study tried to find for each charter school student a
"virtual" twin in the traditional public school that the charter
student transferred from or would have attended.

The study found that almost half the charter schools performed about
the same as traditional public schools in math, said Dr. Margaret
Raymond, lead author of the study and head of the research team.
"Then, 17 percent had statistically superior figures, and 37 percent
of charter schools were significantly worse than public school," she
said. Tremendous variation in academic quality among charters is the
norm, not the exception, the study says.

"You do see a lot of variation within communities, variation within
states and variations within the national picture," Raymond said.
"Does it mean charter schools should be fixed, or are public schools
really strong?" The report draws some of the same conclusions as other
recent studies of charter school effectiveness, including a Rand Corp.
study this year. That study attributed low minority achievement levels
to "the success of the provision in the state’s original charter law
encouraging the establishment of charter schools for disadvantaged

Improving minority achievement was one of the major goals cited during
establishment of the first public charter schools in Texas in 1996.
Not everyone is alarmed at the low minority achievement levels in
Texas. "It’s not terribly surprising that during that first year, you
see performance drop off," said David Dunn of the Texas Charter
Schools Association. "But by the third and fourth year, charter
students exceed in both reading and math."

Another positive, Dunn said, is Texas charter school performance for
English-language learners. Joe Bean, public information specialist
with the Texas State Teachers Association, said high expectations may
be part of the problem facing charter schools.  "We hear the same
kinds of things not only with charters, but also with the voucher
program," he said. "But once data starts coming in down the road,
typically there may be some gains or there may not, but it usually
doesn’t meet the high expectations anticipated at the start."

The Stanford study group said the problem for low-performing states is
one of charter school policy as much as educational issues.

"What’s going on with that 37 percent?" Raymond said. "We feel it’s a
call for stronger school accountability and stronger provider
accountability, states taking a stronger look at consistently
underperforming schools."

The report says there is "a disturbing subset" of poorly performing
charter schools, which education officials are reluctant to close.

Charter caps, which limit the number of charters granted, were also
cited as a particularly harmful policy.

"It is dissuading successful schools from replicating their
practices," Raymond said. "It is decreasing entry opportunities for
charter management organizations to come into a state."

Texas has about 460 open-enrollment charters serving more than 90,000
students. There is a waiting list of 17,000 students for charter

Recent failed legislation sponsored by state Sen. Dan Patrick,
R-Houston, would have loosened the cap and strengthened the state’s
ability to shut down struggling charters, said Dunn, of the Texas
charter school group.

The lack of higher achievement levels in Texas charters is one reason
why the teachers association did not support legislation to lift the
cap, Bean said.

"The standards appear to be fairly low for accountability" of charter
providers, Bean said. "Also, the Texas Education Agency doesn’t have
the resources to adequately monitor the charters that are now open."

Online: credo.stanford.edu


Stanford report’s key findings: In general, students in charter
schools nationwide are not faring as well as students in traditional
public schools.

Texas was among the states whose charter schools’ academic gains
lagged behind those of their traditional public school counterparts.
Students from 371 charter schools were followed; 17 percent of
charters showed academic gains better than traditional public schools;
46 percent showed no significant differences.

Charter schools overall had a positive effect on low-income students
and English-language learners.

Elementary and middle school charter students tended to do better than
their peers, but that wasn’t true for upper- or multilevel charter

First-year charter school students experienced a decline in test
scores and progress, while those in their second and third years
usually saw positive gains.

Charter schools in five states outperformed their traditional peers;
charters in six states, including Texas, underperformed their
traditional peers.

Source: "Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States,"
Stanford University


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