Stanford Study Finds Highs and Lows in Ohio Charter Schools

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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. State-wide it found the 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.”

Some charters performed very well. Cleveland charters did better than the public schools, especially for poor black students. But Dr. Raymond, who calls herself a “pro-market girl” told the Cleveland City Club school choice is 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 revelation to the researchers how much strong boards of trustees were necessary to ensure high quality performance at charter school companies.

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