Jeremy C Bradley is a staff writer for the Finance & Investment category of Justmeans. He is a graduate of Lincoln University of Missouri where he earned a degree in biology and philosophy. He also holds an MBA. Jeremy is an expert in the business field, having worked in development and marketing at major New York City non-profit organizations. Among the highlights of Jeremy's career is sp...
Are Charter Schools Effective?
Thousands of charter schools have opened across the United States in the last twenty years. That's great news for legislators and education experts who have devoted thousands of hours and millions of dollars into the creation and operation of these schools. Now, researchers are beginning to assess the results of charter schools. Unfortunately, the results may be disappointing. Here's why: results from studies on charter schools are mixed. Some studies show that charter schools outperform traditional school settings; other studies put charter schools and traditional schools on a level playing field; and still other studies show that charter schools are under-performing traditional schools.
These studies all have different conclusions because the methodologies used to study charter schools are all flawed. That's according to a report released by the Wall Street Journal late last week. So now educators face a huge challenge in determining the effectiveness of charter school programs, keeping in mind that success can't always be judged on test results, but often in the quality of instruction and in the happiness and fulfillment of the students.
Researchers typically use standardized tests to study the effectiveness of charter schools. The results of those standardized tests are compared to the results of students at traditional schools. Apples-to-apples comparisons often give charter schools excellent rankings, but such comparisons assume that students enter school on an equal footing. Educators know, however, that if students must choose to apply for charter schools, which is often the case, they have greater motivation to do well on standardized tests.
Some cities, like New York, however, use a lottery system to place students in charter schools. Joshua Angrist, co-author of a study on charter schools, notes that a lottery system provides "the best evidence you can get on charter schools short of running a clinical trial" since students are randomly assigned to schools; a true apples-to-apples comparison.
With all the various methodologies used to test charter schools, one is left to wonder at their real usefulness. There is good news, though. Researchers generally find that charter schools in lower-income and urban districts do better at boosting test scores than the similar charter schools in suburban and higher-income areas. Charter schools may well be effective tools in reaching urban students.
Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt