Posts by Nora Kern

 

Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

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.  
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

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.
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

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.  
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

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.
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

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.
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Academic Performance in Charter Schools: A Year in Review

As 2013 comes to a close, here is a look at a few studies released this year on the academic performance in charter schools. From major multi-year reports to working papers, these are a few findings that are worth keeping on your radar:
  • Overall Academic Achievement. The 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. Overall, the study found that students in public charter schools are outperforming their 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 certain demographic backgrounds—such as English Language Learners and minority students.
  • Raising the Bar for All Schools. Yusuke Jinnai, a Ph.D candidate in Economics at the University of Rochester, examinedthe impact of opening public charter schools on achievement levels for students at neighboring district schools in North Carolina. He found that traditional public schools do in fact respond to the presence of public charter schools; further, the paper debunks the myth that the success of public charter schools comes at the detriment of neighboring traditional public schools. In North Carolina, public charter schools contribute to education reform by serving low-performing students and encouraging high standards of performance for nearby traditional public schools.
  • Measuring Results. A Mathematica study  found that KIPP middle schools have a strong and meaningful impact on student performance. For example, KIPP schools reduced the achievement gap in math between white and black students by 40 percent. The study also examined the characteristics of students attending KIPP middle schools and found little evidence that KIPP schools only succeed by taking high performing students out of district schools. And similar to results from the KIPP study on attrition, this study finds that attrition rates for KIPP schools are the same as traditional public schools.
  • Making Sure All Students Succeed. A working paper by Ron Zimmer and Cassandra Guarino provides additional evidence that public charter schools are not pushing out low-performing students. The study examined patterns of student transfers in an anonymous school district with more than 60 charter schools. The study found no evidence that public charter schools were more likely to push out low-performing students. Conversely, the study finds that below-average students were five percent more likely to leave traditional public schools than below-average students in charter schools.
  • Predicting Future Success. The CREDO two volume study, Charter School Growth and Expansion, tackled a range of research questions including a ranking of charter school networks based on student achievement in math and reading. It also introduced a paradigm shift in terms of thinking about charter school quality: namely, that early performance of charter schools almost entirely predicts future performance. In other words, if a charter school starts out low-performing, it has a very slim chance of making improvements. This is sobering but important information about what we can expect from charter school performance and for shaping how we think about ensuring all charters are high-quality schools.
This year proved, yet again, that charter schools continue to offer high-quality options to parents and families. For more information on other studies of charter school performance, check out our compilation of studies that have been conducted on public charter school student performance since 2010. Nora Kern is the senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Report Shows Continued Growth of Charter School Management Organizations

Last week, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder released their greatly anticipatedreport profiling nonprofit and for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) using 2011-2012 school year data. In that school year, approximately 44 percent of public charter students attended a school managed by a nonprofit or for-profit EMO. Here are some key findings for each type of management organization in 2011-2012: Nonprofit management organizations
  • A total of 1,206 public schools (charter schools and a few district schools) were managed by nonprofit EMOs.
  • Nonprofit management companies operated in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
  • The number of students in nonprofit EMO-managed schools increased dramatically, from 237,591 students in 2009-2010 to 445,052 students during 2011-2012.
  • KIPP is the largest nonprofit network, running 98 schools serving more than 35,000 students.
  • The states with the largest numbers of nonprofit management organizations, by number of operators, include California, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, and New York.
For-profit management organizations
  • For-profit EMOs are contracted by district and charter school boards to operate and manage schools. In total, 94.6 percent of EMO-managed schools are charter schools, and 5.4 percent are district schools.
  • For-profit EMOs operated in 35 states.
  • More than 800 public schools across the country, serving more than 460,000 students are run by for-profit EMOs.
  • The growth of the for-profit sector has been focused online—10.8 percent of all for-profit-managed schools are virtual.
    • K12 Inc.’s enrollment vastly exceeds any other management organization’s (both nonprofit and for-profit) total enrollment.
  • Nearly 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit EMOs; at least 30 percent of charter schools in Florida, Ohio, and Arizona are run by for-profit EMOs.
The full NEPC report contains further breakouts by management organization size, number of schools, student enrollment, state-based trends, and profiles of each operator. While both nonprofit and for-profit management organizations have seen rapid growth, especially within the charter school community, it is important to note that the majority of public charter schools are still freestanding, nonprofits. Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Research Provides Link between Educational Field Trips and Student Learning: Several Charter Schools Already Leading the Way

In these days of constrained budgets and increased testing, the cultural enrichment field trip has taken a hit. But new research from Jay Greene and colleagues at University of Arkansas demonstrates that after a single guided tour of an art museum, students showed increased critical thinking, recall, tolerance, empathy, and cultural interest. The study is the first large-scale, randomized controlled trial  measuring student learning from a field trip. Each school visit toCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas included a one-hour guided tour of the museum’s permanent collection, a discussion and activity session around a Common Core State Standards-aligned theme, and lunch at the museum’s restaurant. The museum also provided funding for the museum visit, including transportation, substitute teachers, lunch, and educational materials. During the first two semesters of the school tour program, the museum received 525 applications from school groups representing 38,347 students in kindergarten through grade 12. Due to this demand, the researchers worked with the museum to conduct a lottery for the available tour slots. The study matched schools, based on similarity in grade level and other demographic factors, into pairs of those that won a museum tour via the lottery and the control group who were deferred to a later tour date. The researchers administered surveys to a total of 10,912 students and 489 teachers at 123 different schools in the paired tour and control groups three weeks, on average, after the treatment group received its tour. The students who attended the museum field trip showed:
  • ability to recall the details and themes of their tours at very high rates—even up to 8 weeks post-visit with no sign of fading out;
  • increased likeliness to develop a taste for returning to art museums and cultural institutions—measured by the actual rate at which they returned to the museum as well as their survey responses;
  • higher levels of tolerance and greater historical empathy (understanding what it is like to live in other times and places); and
  • stronger critical thinking about art—measured by students’ short essay responses to a new painting.
All of these observed benefits were significantly larger for disadvantaged students (minority, low-income, or rural students). You can read an article with further details about the study’s methodology and findings in Education Next. Several public charter schools throughout the country employ a museum school model to go beyond the single-visit benefits measured in the Arkansas University:
  • The Museum School in Decatur, Georgia notes, “The museum concept is a proven school model that provides project-based learning through partnerships with museums and other community organizations.”
  • The mission statement of the Miami Children’s Museum Charter School in Florida states, “Through the use of the museum exhibits, facilities and resources, we provide a unique learning environment that challenges students to reach their full potential and become independent lifelong learners.”
  • The Museum School of San Diego, California, describes its mission as one that “…celebrates, nurtures and enhances the abilities of all participants through experiential, project-based learning. Infusing the arts whenever appropriate the Museum School utilizes the wealth of resources available at local museums and within the San Diego community.”
These charter schools have used their autonomy to make arts education part of their core curriculum and boost student achievement. Given the findings from Greene’s study, these charter schools should expect to see tangible increases in student learning as a result of the partnerships with museums. Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 
nnn Photo Credit: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Stephen Ironside/Ironside Photography Painting Credit: Bo Bartlett “The Box,” Bo Bartlett
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Harlem Children’s Zone Shows Positive Long-Term Results for Students

A new working paper by Harvard’s Roland G. Fryer, Jr. and Princeton’s Will Dobbie tracked more than 400 students in sixth grade who were chosen in a lottery to attend Promise Academy, a public charter middle school that is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone. The Medium-Term Impacts of High-Achieving Charter Schools on Non-Test Score Outcomes gathers data from the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), the New York City Department of Education, the National Student Clearinghouse, and survey results from Promise Academy students and their peers who did not win a seat via the lottery. The study is distinctive for going beyond traditional measures of student success and examining longer-range life outcomes. The research found improved “human capital” and diminished “risky behaviors” among lottery winners. Notably, when compared to their non-lottery winning peers, the Promise Academy students were:
  • 14.1 percentage points more likely to enroll in college;
  • 12.1 percentage points less likely to be pregnant;
  • 4.3 percentage points less likely to be in prison or jail (boys);
  • scoring higher on math and reading exams; and
  • more likely to take and pass exams in courses such as chemistry and geometry.
This study builds on research showing that comprehensive HCZ programs focused on promoting social well-being continue to yieldresults for low-income families in New York City. Nora Kern is senior manager for research and analysis at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 
Nora Kern

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

New Study Shows Large Achievement Gains for Public Charter Schools in Boston

Boston’s public charter schools have received much media attention for their positive impact on student achievement due to numerous  high-quality research studies showing that charter schools outperform their traditional public school counterparts. Earlier this year, a study released by CREDO found that for each year students attended a public charter school in Boston, they gained an entire additional year of learning in both math and reading when compared with similar students in traditional public schools. The Boston Foundation (TBF) has funded a series of reports on charter school performance and instructional practices in Boston. Their first study, in 2009, found significant achievement impacts for middle and high schools students attending public charter schools. Remarkably, middle school gains in mathematics cut the black-white achievement gap in half. Academic achievement in Boston charter schools also goes beyond math and reading gains. In May 2013, TBF released a report on secondary outcomes for students attending charter schools. The study found that students attending public charter schools not only do well on standardized tests, but are more likely to take and pass Advanced Placement (AP ) exams, receive higher SAT scores, and pass the Massachusetts high school exit exam required for graduation. Last week, TFB released a follow-up to the 2009 TBF achievement study. Once again, the study found significant gains in charter school student performance in math and reading for both middle and high school students. The study found that academic gains were largest for minority students, English language learners (ELL), and students who performed the lowest on baseline exams. Despite these great results, the study also found that these groups of students are the least likely to attend charter schools. Charter schools in the area serve a smaller percentage of English Language Learners (ELL) and students with disabilities than traditional Boston public schools, although the latter gap is shrinking. Access to ELL and special education services is a concern throughout the charter school movement, which is why the National Alliance has created toolkits to help charter schools better understand existing legal frameworks and best practices for providing these important services. TBF’s report also notes that access to high-quality schools remains a concern. Although the Massachusetts legislature has raised the cap on public charter schools in the state’s lowest-performing school districts in recognition of the tremendous impact public charter schools have on student performance, there still are not enough high-quality public charter schools to meet the demand from families throughout the state. Nora Kern is the senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.