Closing schools is exceedingly difficult,
both logistically and politically.
And, even if states and localities
implement a closure regime, the real
question is whether they can open
superior alternatives. There is some brutal
logic here. There is only handful of charters
that consistently do very well (e.g., KIPP,
Achievement First). They rely heavily on
private donations, as does their capacity to expand.
This from the Shanker Blog:
This is the third in a series of three posts about charter schools. Here are the first and second parts.
As discussed in prior posts, high-quality analyses of charter school effects show that there is wide variation in the test-based effects of these schools but that, overall, charter students do no better than their comparable regular public school counterparts. The existing evidence, though very tentative, suggests that the few schools achieving large gains tend to be well-funded, offer massive amounts of additional time, provide extensive tutoring services and maintain strict, often high-stakes discipline policies.
There will always be a few high-flying chains dispersed throughout the nation that get results, and we should learn from them. But there’s also the issue of whether a bunch of charters schools with different operators using diverse approaches can expand within a single location and produce consistent results.
Charter supporters typically argue that state and local policies can be leveraged to “close the bad charters and replicate the good ones.” Opponents, on the other hand, contend that successful charters can’t expand beyond a certain point because they rely on selection bias of the best students into these schools (so-called “cream skimming”), as well as the exclusion of high-needs students.
Given the current push to increase the number of charter schools, these are critical issues, and there is, once again, some very tentative evidence that might provide insights.
One fairly simple way to take a look is to identify places where the charter sector as a whole has been shown effective. There are at least two major districts where this seems to be the case.
The first is New York City, as shown by a 2009 lottery study, which is discussed here (NYC charters were also shown effective in this paper). The other charter hotspot is Boston. A 2008 evaluation, part of which also used random assignment, found that, among Boston middle and high schools, charter students outperformed their regular public school counterparts by substantial margins (also see this analysis).
Charter supporters frequently point to these analyses as evidence that it’s not just a few chains scattered throughout the nation doing well – that NYC and Boston are among the largest districts in the U.S., both serve large proportions of disadvantaged kids, and that the charters in these cities are “showing it can be done.”
It’s fair to say that most of these schools are probably very well-run and doing great things. But, in the question of whether these efforts represent proof that charter sectors as a whole can produce results, it’s also important to note that, in both cities, charter “market share” is exceedingly small. In other words, in these two large, urban districts, there are very few charter schools...