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Report: Academic success lower in charter schools

By Staff | Jun 16, 2009

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University released Monday the first-ever national report on the effectiveness of charter schools.
Seventy percent of charter school students in the United States — from 15 states and the District of Columbia — were included in the study
Parents and educators have lauded charter schools for the last decade as an academically superior alternative to public schools. But, according to the report, academic achievement in Florida charter schools was lower than in traditional schools.
Most charter schools were created within heavily populated metropolitan areas to aid struggling minority students, but Florida’s black population performed lower in reading and mathematics than their public school counterparts, according to the report.
The study found that only 17 percent of charter schools nationwide reported higher gains, while 37 percent performed worse than traditional public schools. Forty-six percent exhibited no difference.
Furthermore, students in Florida who improved academically did not do so until their third year in a charter school.
Researchers stated that academic achievement varied greatly among different charter schools.
“The issue of quality is the most pressing problem that the charter school movement faces,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO at Stanford University, in a prepared statement.
Raymond said charter schools have been working hard to remove any barriers to enrollment, but they also need to focus on dealing with underperforming schools.
“If the charter school movement is to flourish, a deliberate and sustained effort to increase the proportion of high quality schools is essential,” she said.
Charter Schools USA, a statewide education company, operates five charter schools in Lee County: Cape Coral Charter, Bonita Springs Charter, Gateway Charter, Gateway High Charter and Six Mile Charter.
The company oversees 19 charter schools with 14,000 students.
Colleen Reynolds, spokesperson for Charter Schools USA, said results from the study are mixed with good and bad news. The company has schools all over the state and it has had wonderful gains, according to Reynolds.
“When you combine all of the schools together, our average is an A,” she said.
Charter Schools USA has been active in raising the bar for charter and public schools by supporting legislation like House Bill 991, signed by Gov. Charlie Crist in Fort Myers last week. The law increases state assistance, such as schoolwide planning, teacher training and leadership development, to underperforming schools.
“We have been adamant about saying to get rid of the schools that aren’t performing and make sure legislation is in place that eliminates these schools,” said Reynolds.
The Florida Senate passed a charter school reform bill, SB 278, in April and charter school officials expect it to be signed by Crist this summer. It places the state’s 360 charter schools under the same regulations as traditional schools, including a ban on nepotism and tighter financial controls.
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a statement Monday on the results of the study.
“The CREDO report confirms what several other studies previously indicated: in states and communities where there are high standards for school quality and authorizers are performing their duties well, students in public charter schools are making solid academic progress,” said Nelson Smith, alliance president.
The alliance also issued two calls to action: Strengthen charter school accountability by setting performance targets and hold authorizers — groups such as school boards that authorize a charter — to be held more accountable for what happens.