New Stanford Study on Charters

Big new study on charters from Stanford.  Four reactions. 

1. Andy Smarick:

In 2009, CREDO released an expansive study of charters that, let us just say, made some waves. It showed that among the 16 states studied, there was wide variation in charter quality, and that while lots of charters were doing well, lots were doing worse than local district schools. Ever since, charter antagonists have gleefully used this report to make all types of unflattering claims about chartering. They, I suspect, are less buoyant today.

Andy's view here.

2. Colin Hitt:

The next couple of weeks will be an interesting test for journalists who cover charter schools. For years, CREDO’s (2009) report has repeatedly been quoted as unambiguous evidence that charter schools don’t work. No one can now do that in good faith.

CREDO (2013) now finds that the evidence on charter school performance is generally positive and improving significantly.

His blog here

3. Matt DiCarlo:

From this perspective, one wonders whether the priority here is rapidly improving charter school quality or rapidly growing charter school sectors. These two goals may not be particularly compatible.

For example, the aforementioned CREDO study found that higher-performing CMOs expanded at a slower pace than lower-performing CMOs. Moreover, the few districts in which relative charter performance is strong overall tend to be those in which market share is relatively small.

More here

Excellent cautionary point. 

4. Sara Mead:

Charter students in the District of Columbia gain a whopping 72 more days of learning in reading and 101 days in math relative to their traditional district peers, while charter students in Nevada lose 115 days in reading and 137 days in math comparatively. Charter students in Tennessee, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey also posted impressive gains relative to their traditional school peers, while charter students in Arizona, Arkansas, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas all lost more than two weeks of learning in both subjects relative to their peers.

More Sara here

5. Me

And don't forget the CREDO finding on Boston. Maybe we're not the hockey champs. Maybe the Celts won't sniff a title for a while. And yes, maybe the Pats receiving corps is decimated, with top 4 unlikely to be ready for the season (cut, Peyton Manning, excessive partying/arm infection, and murder).

But Boston charters, as measured by CREDO, were ze best.

Massachusetts charters are good overall, but that combines Boston (excellent) with non-Boston (so-so when taken as a group). Students in Boston's charter schools gained 12 months of additional learning per year in reading and 13 months of additional learning in math compared with their regular public school counterparts.

"The average growth rate of Boston charter students in math and reading is the largest CREDO has seen in any city or state thus far," Edward Cremata, a research associate and co-author of the Massachusetts study, said in a press release.

I think the "why do some charters do well" narrative still misses lots of important nuance. 

For example, at Match, we learn a lot from other schools.  And while we sometimes visit schools in New York and California -- anywhere we can see successful teachers in action -- a lot of our learning happens close to home.  Brooke.  Excel.  KIPP.   UP.   Roxprep.  Boston Prep.  And many more. 

Well what if you're in Nevada?  Or Detroit?  Who do you visit? 

I was talking to a teacher from Detroit today, who is now a grad student at Harvard.  She said, to the best of her knowledge, there were literally no good charters in Detroit.  No one to copy. 

Remember, the way a high-performing charter beats a so-so charter in the early years was to take an unusually skilled veteran educator from a district school, study him or her, and try to institutionalize practices over a whole school.  But along the way, you constantly have to reinvent.  High-performing schools are not static.  No high-performing enterprise is static.

I still remember a day earlier this year, visiting Brooke, when Kimberly -- whose kids have the highest reading scores in the state -- saying "Yep, we're making some big changes....really pushing a different approach to literacy, one that prizes voracious reading."  And when I'd chat with teachers there, they were bought in, driving the change, finding ways to make it flourish.