Posts by Nora Kern


Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Can “Grit” and “Hope” Predict Student Success?

Researchers are beginning to investigate how a student’s mentality—particularly non-cognitive factors like “grit” and “hope”—are predictors of success in life.

Dr. Angela Duckworth, a professor at University of Pennsylvania, was recently awarded a MacArthur Genius grant for her work clarifying the role that intellectual strengths and personality traits play in educational achievement. The two traits that Duckworth’s work examines are grit, the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward long-term goals, and self-control, the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses. She has found that grit predicts success in acts that require perseverance, such as placing in a national spelling bee or graduating from a rough high school, better than standardized test scores. Similarly, self-control predicts report card grades and improvements over time better than measured intelligence.

Hope is another non-cognitive factor that is being used to predict academic outcomes. Gallup senior scientist Dr. Shane Lopezdefines hope as the ideas and energy one has for the future. Through analysis of over 50 studies on hope, Lopez quantified that all other conditions held equal, hope leads to a 12 percent bump in achievement and leads to higher rates of  school attendance, earning course credits, and academic performance. To further this research, Gallup has initiated a Student Poll, which “will track for 10 years the hope, engagement, and wellbeing of public school students in grades 5 through 12 across the United States.”

Because research has shown that characteristics like grit and hope can be taught, an increasing number of public charter schools are using their freedom to incorporate character education into the classroom, a trend that is likely to boost academic achievement across the board. KIPP NYC schools, for example, are piloting a character education program that takes into accountseven highly predictive character strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. This program was designed to support KIPP’s goal of getting all students to and through college.

This research is still young and it will be exciting to watch what schools learn about teaching these traits and how they incorporate them into their instructional practices over time.

Nora Kern is the senior manager of research and analysis at the National Association of Public Charter Schools.


Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Worth Repeating: Study Shows Public Charter Schools Don’t Push Out Low Performers

Earlier this year, we reviewed a working paper by Ron Zimmer and Cassandra Guarino whose findings countered the critique that public charter schools “push out” low-performing students. The final study, published by the American Educational Research Association, looks at the exit patterns of low-performing students in an unnamed large urban school district with a significant charter school market share. The data from school years 2000-01 through 2006-07 showed that although low-performing students do leave charter schools at a slightly higher rate than higher-performing students, this pattern is consistent with the exit rate of low-performing students in traditional public schools. The authors conclude, “our analysis suggests that there is no evidence consistent with the claim that charter schools are in general or at the individual level pushing out low-performing students.”

You must pay to access the full study, but you can read the abstract for Is There Empirical Evidence That Charter Schools “Push Out” Low-Performing Students?.

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

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

National Polls Show Parents Support Public Charter Schools

Last week, three national polls from AP-NORC, PDK/Gallup and EdNext measuring Americans’ attitudes on education were released. The Associated Press-NORC poll did not ask specific questions about public charter schools, but for the other two polls that did charter school breakouts, the results were overwhelmingly positive. All three polls canvassed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 adults.

The big picture charter findings from the 45th annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools include:

  • Nearly 70 percent of Americans favor charter schools (This is up from less than 40 percent 11 years ago)
  • Two of three Americans support new public charter schools in their communities.
  • A majority of Americans said that public charter schools provide a better education than other public schools.

The table below shows the national responses to the 2013 poll questions about public charter schools.

National total responses to public charter school-related poll questions, 2013 PDK Gallup
As you may know, charter schools operate under a charter or contract that frees them from many of the state regulations imposed on public schools and permits them to operate independently. Do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools?
Favor 68% Oppose 29% Don’t know/refused 3%
Would you support new public charter schools in your community?
Yes 67% No 32% Don’t know/refused 1%
Generally speaking, would you support a large increase in the number of public charter schools operating in the United States?
Yes 59% No 39% Don’t know/refused 1%


Do you believe students receive a better education at a public charter school than at other public schools?
Public charter

schools 52%

Other public

schools 31%

No difference 9% Don’t know/refused 8%

The seventh annual Education Next (EdNext) poll asks a variety of questions to test the level of support and understand about public charter schools among the public, teachers, parents, African Americans, and Hispanics. The poll hit several charter “myths,” including questions about whether charters can charge tuition, hold religious services, and hold a lottery if there is more demand for enrollment than available; unfortunately, 50 percent or more of the public respondents indicated “don’t know” to these questions—so the charter sector has some work to do to clarify those misconceptions.

The table below shows responses to the EdNext question about the degree of support for public charter schools.

Responses to 2013 EdNext Poll
As you  may know, many states permit the formation of charter schools, which are publicly funded but are not managed by the local school board. These schools are expected to meet promised objectives, but are exempt from many state regulations. Do you support or oppose the formation of charter schools?


Public Teachers Parents African Americans Hispanics
Completely Support 18% 20% 17% 19% 21%


Somewhat Support 33%


21% 32% 34% 33%
Somewhat Oppose 18%


23% 19% 16% 18%
Completely Oppose 8%


25% 7% 9% 4%
Neither               Support nor Oppose 24%


12% 26% 23% 24%

The polls are great tools to gauge public perceptions about education reform issues, and their positive findings about public charter schools are no surprise to us. With nearly one million student names on waitlists to attend public charter schools across the nation, the polls’ findings echo the hopes of so many families demanding quality educational options.

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

Learn more:

Eduwonk blog: “Triple Crown Of Education Opinion Research

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Public Charter Schools Growing on Native American Reservations

This week, we released a new Details from the Dashboard report, which shows that public charter schools are growing on Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) lands across the country. Some key findings from the report include:

  • Between 2005 and 2010, the number of public charter schools on reservations increased from 19 to 31, accounting for 15 percent of all public schools on reservations.
  • Public charter schools are on reservations located in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Most Native American charter schools – 61 percent – are on reservations geographically located in Arizona and California.

The report also looks into how public charter schools are providing options for Native Americans to open and expand their own schools on their own lands given a Congressional moratorium on new educational programs funded by the BIA, and state or tribal agencies that have approved charter school applications. The growth in charter schools and student enrollment on Native American reservations shows that charter schools are increasingly providing Native communities with a viable schooling option to meet their educational needs.

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

Learn more:

Public Charter Schools on Bureau of Indian Affairs Land [Report]

Public Charter Schools on Bureau of Indian Affairs Land [Map]

Public Charter Schools Growing on Native American Reservations [Press Release]

BIA Details from the Dashboard Map 1

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Keeping up with KIPP: research on KIPP performance

Last week, the annual KIPP School Summit (KSS) brought together “Team and Family” members from the nation’s largest public charter school network—141 KIPP schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serve more than 50,000 students. In honor of KSS, let’s take a look back at what the data say about KIPP’s academic results.

Mathematica study on KIPP middle schools was released in February 2013, building on previous research commissioned by KIPP and conducted by Mathematica (see the studies released in 2010 and 2012), and found positive and sizeable performance results in math, reading, science, and social studies (check out our blog to see graphs that translate study effect sizes into additional months of learning equivalencies). In addition to mathematics, the study looked at the characteristics of students attending KIPP middle schools and found little evidence that KIPP schools cream students based on performance, poverty, or race. And similar to results from the KIPP study on attrition, this study showed that attrition rates for KIPP schools are the same as comparison traditional public schools.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego released a meta-analysis of studies on charter school achievement in October 2011. This “study of studies” strategy, popularized by the medical research field, pulls together the results from a body of research and analyzes the overall effect of the program. Given the large number of studies on KIPP charter schools, the authors were able to break out the findings, which revealed large, positive results for KIPP middle schools in reading and math.

It should be noted that in addition to the stellar academic gains, KIPP schools deserve kudos for commissioning ongoing research that goes beyond academics and seeks to understand how their schools operationally function and serve students. This knowledge is critical to determining whether the KIPP model can lead to improvements throughout the public education system.

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

KIPP gala video image for blog
KIPP School Summit 2013 Gala Video

Learn more:
The Charter Blog: New Study Shows Positive Performance Results for KIPP Middle Schools

Our president & CEO Nina Rees attended KSS; see her tweets by searching @Ninacharters and #KSS2013.

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Latin Language is Alive and Serving Students Well in Atlanta Charter School

Maureen Downey’s AJC blog featured a piece by Latin Academy Charter School chair Eric Wearne that proudly touts the school’s success. And he’s got good reason to boast: in the school’s first year of operation, 97.8 percent of Latin Academy’s students achieved a “met or exceeded standards” in reading, and 79.1 percent of its students met or exceeded standards in math on the Georgia CRCT exam. It should be noted that the school’s 90 sixth graders—93 percent of whom are free and reduced priced luncheligible—achieved these outcomes while studying Latin. As research has shown that early performance of charter schools almost entirely predicts future performance, Latin Academy should look forward to a bright future.

We featured Latin Charter on our blog last year when it was only three weeks into its first year. Check out this report to see how other public charter schools are using their instructional focus to drive student success.

Latin Academy






Latin Academy Charter School Class of 2023 Receives their Class Banner. image via Latin Academy Charter School website.

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Digging Deeper on the CREDO Public Charter Schools National Study

As we noted yesterday, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a study using data from 25 states along with New York City and the District of Columbia, and it had a lot of good news about academic achievement in public charter schools. Let’s take a closer look at some of the positive findings.

In the breakouts by demographic backgrounds, the statistically significant findings of the impact of attending a public charter school compared to a traditional school include:

  • Black students gained 14 days of learning in reading and 14 days of learning in math.
    • The learning gains for low-income black students in charter schools increase to 29 additional learning days in reading and 36 additional learning days in math.
  • Low-income Hispanic students gained 14 days of learning in reading and 22 days of learning in math.
    • For Hispanic students designated as English Language Learners (ELL), the increased learning jumps to 50 additional days in reading and 43 additional days in math.
  • Low-income students, regardless of race, gained 14 days of learning in reading and 22 days of learning in math.
  • ELL students, regardless of race, gained 36 days of learning in reading and 36 days of learning in math.
  • Students with disabilities gained 14 additional learning days in math.

The gains in learning days are a significant step toward closing the achievement gap—especially when students from disadvantaged backgrounds are showing the greatest positive impact from attending a public charter school.

By grade level breakouts, middle school students gained the most additional learning days: 29 in reading and 36 in math. Elementary public charter school students gained 22 days in reading and 14 in math. The results in high school were not statistically significant, while multi-level schools had a negative impact on math results.

Interestingly, being run by a non-profit management organization (CMO) did not result in any additional learning days in reading or math. However, independent charter schools gained 7 days of additional learning in reading.

The number of years a student was enrolled in a public charter school had a great impact on their learning gains—with students who attended a public charter school the longest seeing the highest additional learning gains. Students enrolled in charter schools for one year saw negative results, while attending a charter for 2-4 years steadily increased learning gains in reading and math. Once a student is enrolled for four or more years in a public charter school, their learning gains outpace their traditional school peers by 50 days in reading and 43 days in math per year.

Moving from the national results into state data, the biggest gains in additional learning days on the 2013 CREDO report were seen in Rhode Island, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Michigan.

2013 CREDO Results Reading Math
State Standard Deviations Days of Learning Standard Deviations Days of Learning
District of Columbia 0.10** 72 0.14** 101
Louisiana 0.07** 50 0.09** 65
Michigan 0.06** 43 0.06** 43
Rhode Island 0.12** 86 0.15** 108
Tennessee 0.12** 86 0.10** 72

Source: CREDO

Considering that the standard school year is 180 days for traditional district schools, public charter school students in Rhode Island are gaining nearly half a year (48 percent) more learning in reading and over half a year (60 percent more) learning time in math.

The 2013 CREDO results are consistent with an overall trend among more recent high quality charter school studies that show a positive impact on student performance (see here and here). As the CREDO report notes, the positive trends in public charter school student performance is uneven across the states and across schools. As a sector, we must continue to work to ensure that all public charter schools provide great learning opportunities for all students.

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Trends in Public Charter Schools’ Instructional Delivery and Focus

During the spring of 2012, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) conducted its first national public charter school survey. The survey asked public charter school leaders to respond to questions on school waitlistscurriculumfacilities and a variety of other operational elements. A primary goal of the survey was to collect information that would help to better understand the wide range of instructional strategies public charter schools use.

With 6,000 autonomous charter schools operating nationwide, the responses to our first national survey demonstrate that public charter schools are a varied bunch. Our new report analyzes the survey responses to provide new details about emerging trends and differences in the instructional delivery strategies and focus of public charter schools. Top trends identified by the survey include:

  • Almost three-quarters (71.8 percent) of the respondents use a combination of off-the-shelf and customized curriculum;
  • Over half (57.7 percent) of respondents from charter schools that enroll students in grades 9 through 12 described their schools as having a “college-prep” instructional focus;
  • Half (49.3 percent) of the respondents indicated an extended school day to increase instructional learning time; and
  • Nearly half (48.8 percent) of the respondents from charter schools that enroll students in grades 9 through 12 said their students take classes at local universities or colleges.

The survey asked public charter schools to select their instructional focus from a list of 44 options, including a write-in option, and two out of five public charter schools (40.5 percent) respondents indicated a college-prep instructional focus. Based on the many approaches that schools use to implement a “college-prep” instructional focus, we asked charter school leaders tell us in their own words how they use different instructional methods to achieve their school’s mission. For example, The Intergenerational School in Cleveland, Ohio, pairs students with adult and senior citizen mentors to let the generations learn from each other, while the Paulo Freire Freedom School, a charter middle school in Tucson, Arizona, adopted project-based learning to impart knowledge through experiences that are authentic and engaging. These are just two of the many innovative approaches that public charter schools use to make a difference in the lives of children. You can also check out blogs from a virtual school in Hawaii, a Japanese immersion charter in Oregon, a wellness-focused charter in New York, and a service-learning school in Pennsylvania.

Whether through a customized curriculum or extended learning time, public charter schools are innovating to meet their students’ needs. Charter schools use their autonomy to select instructional focuses that run the gamut: from career-based to vocational and from traditional to project-based learning.

Instr Strategy Infographic

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Public Charter School Facilities Trends

Obtaining the financing and physical space for facilities that are adequate to support a growing student population is a consistent struggle for public charter schools. To gather data points about facilities struggles, the Colorado League of Charter Schools worked with NAPCS to launch the Charter School Facilities Initiative (CSFI)—a national research effort with the ultimate goal of identifying prominent shortcomings in the current capital landscape and to develop public policy recommendations for providing adequate and equitable facilities for public charter schools. CSFI conducted in-depth studies in ten states and recently launched a national report on its findings.

During the spring of 2012, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) conducted its first national public charter school survey. One of the primary goals of the survey was to collect information that would help to better understand the ways public charter school finance and use school facilities. Building on the work conducted by the CDFI, NAPCS’s new report, Public Charter School Facilities: Results from the NAPCS National Charter School Survey, School Year 2011-2012, shares facilities-related survey findings. Notably, over half (56 percent) of the public charter school survey respondents do not have access to a facility that will be adequate for enrollment in five years.

In the past five years, the growth of public charter school student enrollment has increased nearly 80 percent, and the number of schools has grown by 40 percent. Given this demand, the ability to access and finance adequate facilities is a critical part of public charter school growth.

Facilities Infographic blog image












Click here to see a larger version of the infographic.

Nora Kern


Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

New Analysis Indicates that Public Charter Schools Do Not Lead to Increased Segregation

In a recent piece on the Brookings Institute blog, Matthew Chingos explored the question ‘Does Expanding School Choice Increase Segregation?’ Through analysis of nine years of data from the Common Core of Data (CCD), the federal government’s annual census of all public schools, Chingos delves into the demographic characteristics of charter school students and their counterparts in traditional public schools, which is often cited by public charter school critics as evidence that choice leads to segregation (even though previous research has indicated that public charter schools often match the demographics of the local traditional public schools).

For each of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S., Chingos calculated an “exposure index” (measures the portion of non-minority students at the schools attended by the average under-represented minority student over time), “dissimilarity index” (an alternative measure of segregation), and panel data analysis that uses all nine years of CCD to estimate the relationship between charter enrollment and segregation using only the changes within counties over time. The results of all three measures consistently indicated no meaningful relationship between school choice and segregation. As Chingos summarizes, “the findings reported here indicate that it is unlikely that charter schools—a prominent effort to increase school choice, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds—are making the problem worse.”

NAPCS noted in an issue brief released last year that one of the most exceptional developments within the first two decades of the public charter school movement has been the rise of high performing public charter schools with missions intently focused on educating students from traditionally underserved communities. Given that the demographics of these communities are often homogenous, it is no surprise the demographics of these schools are that way as well. In fact, the student populations at these public charter schools usually mirror the populations in nearby district schools.

While much media attention rightly has been given to these schools, the past decade or so also has seen a noteworthy rise in high performing public charter schools with missions intentionally designed to serve racially and economically integrated student populations. These schools are utilizing their autonomy to achieve a diverse student population through location-based strategies, recruitment efforts and enrollment processes.

Perhaps most notably, a growing number of cities—and the parents and educators in them—are welcoming both types of public charter school models for their respective (and in some cases unprecedented) contributions to raising student achievement, particularly for students who have previously struggled in school. Chingos’s analyses add to the evidence that the public school choice allows parents of choose the school environment that suits their student’s needs and is not a primary contributing factor to school (re)segregation.