NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 6, 2005

Charter schools are now receiving mixed reviews from education researchers. While previous studies pointed to a general consensus of failure, these publicly funded and independently run schools are beginning to improve their reputation. Two conflicting reports released in December are now causing parents and researchers to reconsider charter schools, says USA Today.

Both reports compared the performance of students from charter schools with those of students in regular public schools in the subjects of reading and math:

  • In a study of 150 charter schools, the Department of Education found that students in charter schools received the same scores in reading as students in regular schools but scored worse in math.
  • Yet, according to a study of charter schools in 36 states, Caroline Hoxby, a Harvard researcher, found that charter students performed better in reading and math.

As parents and researchers investigate the conflicting research, they are finding that not all charter schools are created equal. Charter schools cover a wide variety of programs, ranging from dropout intervention to specialty schools for the performing and visual arts. It is impossible to accurately grade the success of charter schools when the reports do not account for their differences, says USA Today.

Charter schools are an important addition to the public education system, giving hope to students who have few educational options. By focusing on the charters that are successful and not settling for mediocre learning results, charter schools may survive the bad rep and resurface as quality assets to public education, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "Charters: Success or Failure?" USA Today, January 4, 2005; "The Nation's Report Card: America's Charter Schools," National Assessment of Education Progress, November 2003; and Caroline M. Hoxby, "Achievement In Charter Schools and Regular Public Schools In The United States: Understanding The Differences," Harvard University and National Bureau Of Economic Research, December 2004.

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For NAEP study


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