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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

Stanford Study Finds Highs and Lows in Ohio Charter Schools

Urban charter schools did best compared to Traditional Public Schools when serving black pupils below the poverty level.

A new analysis of the performance of charter schools in Ohio found that they are lagging behind public schools.  The 5 year study by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes measured growth by students in charter schools to growth by similar students in public schools.For the state as a whole, the charter students fell behind an equivalent of 14 school days in reading and math.  When measuring overall achievement it found 93% of Ohio’s charter schools were below the 50 percentile for public schools.

The Stanford study compared students with very similar backgrounds – similar baseline test scores, race, income level, etc.-  to see how those who went to charters fared compared to those who attended the public school in the same district. Charter students were matched against students at the “feeder school” they likely would have attended in the public school system.State-wide, the study found that charter students would fall behind, an equivalent to 14 days in a 180 day school year.  Researcher Margaret Raymond says charters in some states are a big improvement over public schools but in Ohio, where rules for sponsors or “authorizers” are lax,  the students suffer.“I think we need to have a greater degree of oversight of charter schools but I also we need to have some oversight of the over-seers.  I think the focus on authorizing is a place where those high performing states have really been very deeply attentive to their authorizers and how they perform.   They hold their authorizers accountable.”In a study last year, Stanford found Ohio charter schools ranked low compared to other states. In the new study some charters performed very well.  Community schools in Cleveland outperformed  the municipal school district especially for poor black students.  But there is a wide disparity among charters and Dr. Raymond,  who calls herself a “pro-market girl,” says school choice is still too complicated for most parents.“It’s the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect the parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports are needed. ”Charter schools run by large companies tended to perform worse than independent schools.  Raymond says it was a revelation to the researchers how much strong boards of trustees were necessary to ensure high quality performance at charter school companies.