Posts by Nora Kern

 

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New study shows Los Angeles charter schools students are beating the odds

A new report released last week by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that public charter schools in Los Angeles, which serve the largest number of students in the country, are outperforming traditional public schools. Following the methodology of CREDO’s 2013 National Charter School study, which found charter schools are outperforming their district peers across the country, the report translates the impact of attending a charter school into additional days of learning. This study finds that the typical student in a Los Angeles public charter school gains about 50 more days of learning in reading and an additional 79 days of learning in math.

Credo Graphic

Source: CREDO, pg. 37, http://credo.stanford.edu/pdfs/Los_Angeles_report_2014_FINAL_000.pdf.

The study also found public charter schools are greatly impacting Hispanic students living in poverty— with these students gaining an additional half year of learning in math by being enrolled in a charter school. Below are the positive study results by different demographic groups, grade levels, type of charter school, and years enrolled.  In each of these cases, “additional days of learning” is compared to traditional public school students.
 


  Reading Math
Charter Student Characteristics

Additional Days of Learning

Poverty (overall) 14 43
Black 14 14
Black in Poverty 36 58
Hispanic 43 72
Hispanic in Poverty 58 115
White 14 N/A
Asian 14 N/A
ELL 36 N/A
Grade Levels
Elementary 58 50
Middle 36 158
High 50 58
Multi-Level 36 65
Charter School Characteristics
CMO affiliated 65 122
Non-CMO affiliated 36 43
Urban 50 79
Suburban 65 101
Years of Charter Enrollment
1 Year 50 101
2 Years 58 72
3 Years 58 187




The report concludes with a strong endorsement of these results across student groups and  over time: “…The typical student in a Los Angeles charter school gains more learning in a year than her [traditional public school] counterpart…These positive patterns emerge in a student’s first year of charter attendance and persist over time. Black and Hispanic students in poverty especially benefit from attendance at charter schools. A substantial share of Los Angeles charter schools appear to outpace [traditional public schools] in how well they support academic learning gains in their students in both reading and math.”

The findings of this report show yet again that when public charter schools are allowed to thrive, so do our students. Click here to read the full Charter School Performance in Los Angeles report.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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What is De Blasio thinking?

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told four charter schools they would lose their school buildings, leaving at least 700 children without a school this coming school year. One of the schools is already open and serving children—with achievement scores that make it one of the highest performers in the city and state. Three others were scheduled to open this fall, one of which may still be allowed to do so, but only with reduced enrollment.

Mayor de Blasio’s decision has left many scratching their heads, especially when we look at how well public charter schools are serving the Big Apple’s students:

This research confirms what many parents and students on the ground already know–that charter schools work. It’s time that Mayor de Blasio takes a look at the research himself, maybe then he would reconsider his approach to helping the city’s most vulnerable youth.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Charter school growth continues, but it’s quality that matters most

Earlier this month, the National Alliance released our annual estimates on the number of new public charter schools and studentsfor the 2013-2014 school year. These numbers are always eagerly anticipated and this year was no exception. The report notes:

  • More than 600 new public charter schools opened their doors for the 2013-14 school year.
  • There are now approximately 6,400 public charter schools, a 7 percent growth from last year.
  • Roughly 2.5 million students are enrolled in public charter schools across the country (13 percent growth). In fact, we saw 288,000 additional students enroll in public charter this year.

The report includes tables that show which states saw the greatest increase in the number of new public charter schools and students served. Below are the states that saw more than 10,000 additional public charter school students enrolled from the previous school year.

State

New

Charters

Additional Students Served

CA

104

48422

AZ

87

39127

TX

5

36083

FL

75

33852

NY

26

14459

MI

33

11999

PA

6

10740



While growth is great, it’s only good for students and families if it is high-quality growth. From that perspective, this pattern is good news. All of these states are in the top half of our model charter law rankings, so they are in the best position to serve their students’ needs. Furthermore, Arizona, California, Florida, and Michigan are also among the states with the largest number of school closures—which occurred for a variety of reasons, including low enrollment, financial concerns, and low academic performance. The closures provide evidence that the charter school community is serious about quality, since schools that do not meet the needs of their students are being closed.


Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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New survey from 50CAN says majority of Americans favor more charter schools

Today 50CAN released the results of a national poll that used a random sample of 6,400 registered voters to gauge Americans’ views on education. The heartening news? A strong majority of respondents felt that improving local schools would be “very helpful” in bettering the U.S. than any other strategy.

For the survey’s findings related to public charter schools, more than half of the respondents favored allowing more charter schools to open. Nearly 75 percent of Americans favored two tenants of charter schooling: providing more school options and giving schools the ability to make changes with less red tape, although they were not stated as features of public charter schools. A staggering 79 percent of Americans favored using technology to individualize learning, something many charter schools are across the country are incorporating into their curriculum.

If there was one disappointing finding in the poll, it’s that the results show that charter schools are still combatting the misconception that they aren’t public. Far too many Americans still operate under the false assumption that charter schools are not public schools.

In addition to national findings, results were also broken out across eight regions. When respondents were asked to rank the states in their regions, seven of the eight the gold medal recipients (Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington) also ranked in the top 25 on our charter school model state law.

To view the 50CAN survey results, click here.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Some Federal Implications of NACSA Quality Recommendations

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) released Replicating Quality: Policy Recommendations to Support the Replication and Growth of High-Performing Charter Schools and Networks in collaboration with the Charter School Growth Fund last week. This report lays out key policies and practices for legislators, authorizers, and state education agencies that have the greatest potential to accelerate the growth of high-performing charter schools. Although the report is focused on state policies, there are implications for the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) and how it prioritizes funds to states.

As we outline in our guiding principles for ESEA reauthorization, Free to Succeed, the National Alliance supports prioritizing federal funds for charter schools for states with laws that are best positioned to encourage quality charter schools.

Unless ESEA is reauthorized and includes our recommendations before the next round of five year state CSP grants are awarded in FY 2015, the department should set priorities for the next competition that are effective in directing funds to states with strong charter school laws.  Several of NACSA’s policy recommendations are well-aligned with our recommendations for state law priorities for the Charter Schools Program including:

  • Independent Charter Boards:  To ensure authorizers are committed to quality (NACSA Policy Recommendation #2), NACSA advocates that states adopt  the National Alliance’s Model Law recommendation for creating at least one statewide authorizing entity.  Federal law already encourages states to create a statewide authorizer, so this would be a plus for applicants in the grant competition process.
  • Remove caps on growth: To allow quality charters to grow, states should remove caps from their laws (NACSA Policy Recommendation #3). Charter caps limit replication of proven, quality charter schools. In Free to Succeed we call for a funding priority to be given to states with charter laws that allow for high-quality school growth without artificial caps.
  • Differentiated renewal processes:  NACSA recommends differentiating and streamlining the renewal process for high-performing charters (NACSA Policy Recommendation #5). For example, Texas and Delaware offer ten-year reviews for their highest-performing charter schools. Federal law, however, prioritizes states that review all charters at least every five years. The next grant competition should not penalize states that have developed a more nuanced renewal process that supports high-quality charters.

NACSA’s report also underscores that creating high-quality charter schools is not as simple as coming up with a federal definition of quality. It takes a comprehensive effort to develop the essential policies and practices at the state, authorizer, and school level.  Federal priorities for state grants should recognize state, authorizer, and school-driven efforts to implement these important strategies.

Christy Wolfe is senior policy advisor for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nora Kern, senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also contributed to this blog post.

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Research shows NYC public charter schools have lower student transfer rates

The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) released a study last month that examined whether students transfer out of charter schools at higher rates than traditional public schools. This issue is important because researchers have found that changing schools can affect student achievement, and it may be a contributor to the achievement gap for minority and disadvantaged students who change schools frequently.

For the study, IBO monitored a cohort of students starting kindergarten in 2008 at 53 charter schools and 116 traditional public schools, and followed these students through their third grade year. The study found that on average, students attending public charter schools stay enrolled in the same school at a higher rate than students at nearby traditional public schools. Specifically:

  • About 70 percent of students attending charter schools in school year 2008-2009 remained in the same school three years later.
  • 61 percent of the traditional school student cohort attended the same school three years later.
  • Charter schools continued to show a higher retention rate when students are compared by gender, race/ethnicity, poverty level, and English language learner status.

The one exception is special education students, who transfer from charter schools at a higher rate than either general education students in charter schools or special education students in traditional public schools. While we don’t know why these students are leaving charter schools and there were very few special needs students in the study, we are concerned by this finding. To continue work on this issue, the National Alliance is working closely with the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools to help charter schools better serve students with special needs.

The study further found that—regardless of school type—students who remained in the same school from kindergarten through third grade scored higher on standardized math and reading tests in third grade than their peers who switched schools. This is an important policy issue for New York City as Mayor de Blasio considers ending co-location and facility funding for public charter schools. If charter schools are financially forced out of operation and students have to transfer to a different school, research shows that their students, especially those who are most disadvantaged, will suffer.

Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

 

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Can attending a charter high school help you go to college and earn more money?

A new working paper released by Mathematica Policy Research and sponsored by the Joyce Foundation finds that public charter schools in Florida and Chicago are helping more students get into college and earn higher incomes once they graduate. Compared to their traditional school peers, the study found:

  • Enrolling in a charter high school increases a student’s probability of graduating from high school and entering college by 11 percentage points in Florida and by seven in Chicago.
  • Enrollment in a Florida charter high school leads to a 10 percentage point increase in the probability of attending college.
  • Chicago charter schools boost their students’ chances of attending college by 11 percentage points.
  • Florida charter high school graduates have a 13 percentage point advantage for completing at least two consecutive years of college.
  • Florida charter high schools may raise their students’ earnings in their mid-20s by as much as 12.7 percent. 

College Attendance Graph

Source: Kevin Booker, Brian Gill, Tim Sass, and Ron Zimmre,Charter High Schools’ Effects on Educational Attainment and Earnings, Mathematica Policy Research, January 2014.

This report is particularly compelling when you consider the methodology. Most charter school studies use a lottery admission strategy, one that compares students who enrolled in an oversubscribed charter school lottery and either won admission to the charter or enrolled in a traditional public school. This Mathematica study, however, looks at students who were enrolled in charter schools in 8th grade, and either enrolled in a charter or switched to a traditional public school for high school. Therefore all the students had previously shown the disposition to enroll in a charter school. The study further controlled for student characteristics such as test scores, race/ethnicity, poverty, mobility, and special education status.

While this report’s methodology is rigorous, it still doesn’t answer the “secret sauce” question of what these public charter schools are doing to achieve these great results for their students’ long-term outcomes and acknowledged the need for further research. But regardless of further research, it’s clear that public charter school students in Chicago and Florida are seeing significant academic results that are helping them well beyond their K-12 years.  

Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Reason #5: Charter schools are innovating to improve student achievement

Innovation GraphicCharter schools are public schools that are given the freedom to innovate while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. They create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are allowed to innovate in the classroom, and students are provided the structure they need to learn.

Across the country, public charter schools are leading in innovation by:

  • Transforming teacher development. California charter school network High Tech High has created a one-year hybrid program designed to support teams of educators from around the world in transforming their schools. This type of collaboration allows teachers to learn and share best practices with others.  High Tech High also runs a certified Master’s Programs in Teacher Leadership and School Leadership. Through these efforts, High Tech High is working to ensure every student in their schools has the opportunity to learn from a highly-effective teacher.
  • Piloting blended learning educational models. Like many charter schools across the country, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, a charter management organization based in Los Angeles, California, has implemented a blended learning model to help integrate technology in the classroom. Their program, called Blended Learning for Alliance School Transformation (BLAST) makes learning more relevant, personalized, and dynamic. The model was piloted in 2010-11 at two Alliance high schools and has since expanded to five high schools and five middle schools.
  • Partnering with community groups to provide needed health services. Students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may not always have access to the health services they need to help them succeed in school. Codman Academy Charter Public School in Massachusetts shares facilities with Codman Square Health Center, allowing not just sharing of space, but also of resources. The charter school and health center formed a partnership program to holistically address students’ physical and mental health needs along with academics.

Members of the charter school community—including parents, teachers, and school leaders—know firsthand the importance of flexibility for schools to make decisions about curriculum, staffing, and other issues. This freedom allows these educators to lead their schools and students to even greater levels of academic achievement.

This blog is the fifth in a series called “5 Reasons Public Charter Schools are Great” to celebrate School Choice Week. To read the other posts in the series, visit The Charter Blog here.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

 

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Reason #1: Public charter schools are closing the achievement gap

The start of School Choice Week is a great time to reflect on the National Alliance’s core belief: that all families deserve access to high-quality public school options. National demographic data show that public charter schools enroll more students of color and from low-income backgrounds than traditional public schools. On average, these students don’t perform as well as white and more affluent students. But public charter schools are starting to change that.

A 2013 national CREDO study looked at charter schools in 27 states through the 2010-2011 school year, covering 95 percent of students attending charter schools across the country. The study found that students in public charter schools are outperformingtheir traditional public school peers in reading, adding an average seven days of learning per year, and performing as well as students in traditional public schools in math. The results were particularly impressive for students from specific demographic backgrounds—such as English Language Learners and minority students.

These results are a great start to closing the achievement gap; however, there are still families that don’t have access to a great public school. The National Alliance will continue our work to grow the number of high-quality charter schools available to all families, especially those who do not have access to high-quality public schools.

This blog is post is the first in a five part series, 
“5 Reasons Public Charter Schools Are Great” to help celebrate School Choice Week. 

Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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A Busy Month for School Choice and New Reports

Later this month, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and other organizations across the country will celebrateNational School Choice Week (SCW). Leading up to the event, several organizations are releasing analyses of policies impacting the growth and quality of public charter schools.

Last week, the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution released its Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI) for 2013, which looks at more than 100 U.S. school districts and ranks the policies and practices that impact the quality of choices and level of competition created by school choice. Not surprisingly, nine of the top ten districts on the ECCI are also featured on our recently released top charter school communities report, showing the integral role public charter schools play in school choice.

Today Students First is releasing  its state policy report card. Public charter schools play a prominent role in the scores related to parent empowerment. In order to receive a high rating, states must:

  • Promote charter establishment & expansion. Several states received higher scores for not having a cap on charter school growth, having non-district authorizers, a fast track authorization process for proven charter operators, and a high bar for replication/expansion for all schools.
  • Establish accountability for charters. States were recognized for requiring a performance-based contract and clear protocols for closing low-performing charter schools. Authorizers are required to submit an annual report to an oversight body for each school they oversee, and are in turn required to undergo an annual review by an outside entity—and low-performing authorizers will be suspended or sanctioned.
  • Enable equitable access to facilities; and
  • Finance charter facilities.

Finally the National Alliance will be releasing our fifth annual model law ranking that scores each state’s charter school law based on 20 essential components, including measures of quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities, and whether or not they cap charter school growth.

Follow @charteralliance for the latest in charter school news and breaking reports and keep an eye on @schoolchoicewk to receive even more information on the contributions charter schools are making toward providing every family with a quality public school option.

Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.