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Charter School Success

Throughout the media, a statistic is often repeated that suggests charter school achievement is “mixed” and that only 1 in 5 charter schools actually perform well. This started in June 2009, when The New York Times published a report on a study by a small research center out at Stanford University, whose press releases for each of the 15 states studied said that charter schools usually did no better or worse than traditional public schools. It’s been repeated by everyone from Joe Scarborough to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The problem is that it’s not even remotely true.

Here are some resources that indicate charter schools are succeeding:
Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement:
Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement documents the true achievement of charter schools, a reform celebrated daily in more than 5,000 schools in 40 states around the country.

How NYC Charter Schools Affect Achievement
This report shows that NYC charter school students will learn more over time than those students who remain in conventional public schools.

DC Charter Scores Prove Success
Results from an accountability system fashioned by the DC Public Charter School Board show superior gains in charters versus traditional public schools. The system also notes schools that, according to the data, either need to buck up or be closed, which is something that this independent authorizer is willing to do.

Democracy Prep Wins Big:
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Democracy Prep Charter School a $9.1M dollar expansion grant to open and turnaround 15 new schools across Harlem, NY, Camden, NJ, and other high-need communities. The most recent NY progress reports affirm Democracy Prep’s place as the highest performing charter management organization in NYC over the past 5 years.

You can find more on school choice and charter school success on the Choice & Charter School

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Understanding Charter Achievement Research: The CREDO Report

A Stanford University report from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) gained major attention in June 2009 when the New York Times ran its findings that public charter schools do no better or worse than traditional public schools. Unfortunately, these findings continue to be taken as fact today despite the study’s shortcomings. Below are some brief talking points on why the CREDO report is flawed.
You can find more detailed information in “Fact-Checking Charter School Achievement.”

Uncorrelated Variables

CREDO’s analysis does not account for the great variances in charter laws from state to state or how those laws may differ from paper to practice.

  • While the report suggests correlations exist between student achievement and charter law components, they admit to not fully understanding the impact of specific laws.
  • The report suggests a negative correlation between student achievement and multiple authorizers. In fact, such charter authorizers vary greatly in law and practice, as CER’s 2012 study and scorecard demonstrate. There is clear evidence that charter students succeed in states witha number of meaningful, independent and highly accountable authorizers who compete for chartering. See our Multiple Authorizers Primer for more information on charter authorizers.
  • The study was based on student population and not the overal strength of their charter system. Therefore CREDO missed most opportunities to see really strong charters in action.


Virtual Methodology

While there are virtual schools, there is no such thing as “virtual” student achievement.

  • The CREDO report acknowledges the creation of new research tools to assess the unknowable. Instead of comparing real students who attend charter schools to real students who attend conventional public schools, CREDO merged demographic data to create “virtual twins.” Randomization, the gold standard of research, is not used.
  • By virtually replicating the demographic profile of a

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