Facts and Figures: Charter Schools
In this March 2005 book, authors Martin Carnoy, Rebecca Jacobsen, Lawrence Mishel, and Richard Rothstein examine the research evidence on the performance of charter schools and how they compare to regular public schools, in thirteen states. Following are key findings:
On average, charter students are not more disadvantaged than students in regular public schools. Yet, charter student achievement is not any higher.
- Regular public schools have a greater share of low-income black, white, and Hispanic students than charter schools. This suggests that comparison of test scores between charter and public schools – if controlled only for race and ethnicity, but not income level - is biased in favor of charters, because they have a more advantaged population among each racial group.
- About 76% of black students in regular public schools are low-income, while only 68% of black students in charter schools are low-income. (This includes only students who took the fourth grade NAEP math exam and who reported on free and reduced-price lunch eligibility.)
- Hispanic students in charter schools are no more disadvantaged than Hispanic students in regular public schools, refuting the view of charter proponents that charters enroll the “disadvantaged of the disadvantaged.”
- In all 13 states studied, charter schools tended to have fewer minority or disadvantaged children than those in public schools, as seen in Colorado, for example. There, more than half of charter students are in schools with the smallest proportion of minority and lunch-eligible students. Only a third of public students attended such schools.
- In California charter schools, 38% of 6th-8th graders are socioeconomically disadvantaged; for all state schools, that figure is 51%.
- An analysis of California found that socioeconomically disadvantaged Asian-origin and Latino students in charter schools had composite test scores (literacy, mathematics, science and social studies) that were about 4-5% lower than their counterparts in public primary schools.
- A study of the 30 charter schools that had been formed in the District of Columbia by 1999-2000 shows that across schools categorized by the socio-economic level of students, charter schools had a much higher proportion of students than regular DC public schools scoring in the lowest category (below basic) on the SAT 9 exam in the spring of 2000.
Reprinted with the permission of the Economic Policy Institute. © 2008 Economic Policy Institute. All rights reserved.
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