Charter School Research and Commentary

We like to say that ideological purity is a luxury that nobody who works in the private sector can afford; in our world, to survive and thrive we are forced to be pragmatists and focus on what works, regardless of where an idea comes from. That is the spirit in which we’ve approached the controversy over equally funding and potentially expanding charter schools in Jeffco.

Here is a commentary from the Denver Post, "Thinking Sensibly About Charter Schools in Jeffco", that weighs the arguments.

This commentary was based on a range of recent research, including this excellent in-depth overview of charter schools by the Philanthropy Roundtable ("Promising to Proven"). A key point this author makes is that the evolution of the charter school space should make one cautious about the applicability of older research. As he notes, competition is forcing the closure of what he terms "mom and pop" charters with unimpressive achievement results, and the increasingly rapid replication of the most effective charter school models.

This paper examined the frequently heard charge that charters don't take enough special education students. This report looks specifically at the claim that Denver charters don't take enough special education students. This one looks at the efficacy of the KIPP middle school model. And this one reaches some interesting conclusions about the longer term impact of charters on their students' life outcomes. This paper, from Mathematica Policy Research, also looks at the long term impact of charter school attendance. And this article from the NYT describes the obstacles that have prevented the transfer of learning between charters and non-charter public schools.

And here is the latest report from CREDO, which finds that urban charters substantially outperform other schools, as does this recent overview of the research on the effectiveness of school choice programs.

This report highlights a depressing fact: Across the United States, many charter school students are deprived of equal funding, even though they are legally public school students, just like their peers in neighborhood schools. The inherent unfairness of this was the subject of this piece by the Editorial Board of the Denver Post, which endorsed equity in funding for charter schools in Jeffco, and unfavorably compared Jeffco's approach to charters to Denver's. At the national level, a recent article in the Economist made the same point -- when you underfund charters, you are setting them up to fail.

Boston's experiment with charter schools recently received this editorial endorsement from the Boston Globe, and was also the subject of this analytical report. As part of the Fordham Institute's "wonkathon" about why some charters perform better than others, this post examined why Boston's charters have performed so well.

Here is the Brookings Institution's new national report card on the state of school choice, and here are their report cards for Cherry Creek, Denver, Dougco, and Jeffco. What grades do you think these districts received? Which district do you think has the lowest grade?

We also found this interesting story, about how city mayors are putting aside ideology and pragmatically turning to charter schools ("mayoral academies") to respond to voter demands for improved school performance.

Here and here are other recent reports about the effectiveness of charter schools.

Here is an excellent research paper from Harvard on the impact of using charter-school best practices in public schools.

And here is an outstanding piece of writing describing what it is like to start a new charter school.

Finally, as you can see in this Jonathan Chait article, even some liberal commentators have decided that opposition to charter schools has gone too far.