March 23, 2009 ann

RAND Releases Study of Charter Schools in Eight States Including Ohio

The RAND Corporation-a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization-recently released a report titled: Charter Schools in Eight States: Effects on Achievement, Attainment, Integration, and Competition (see below for the full report). The report details the findings of a longitudinal study of charter schools in Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia, Denver, Milwaukee, and the states of Texas, Florida, and Ohio.

The study was intended to examine the characteristics of students who transfer to charter schools, the effects of charter schools on test-scores and educational attainment for charter school students, and the impact of charter schools on the test scores of students in neighboring traditional public schools.

Researchers examined three years of Ohio data. The most recent year of analysis (2007-2008) included 246 schools-more than for any other location in the study. Out of the research came a number of key findings about Ohio charter schools and their students. In Ohio, the report claims:


  • Students who transfer to charter schools tend to be lower achieving upon entering a charter school than their former peers at traditional public schools. Among the other locations included in the study, only Texas shared this trend.


  • The academic performance of charter middle and high schools is not significantly different from that of corresponding traditional public schools.


  • When schools with kindergarten as the entry-level grade are included in the comparison, charter schools are substantially lower performing than the corresponding traditional public schools.


  • The lower performance of these “K-entry” charter schools may be due to the poor performance of virtual charter schools serving those grades. (RAND recommends that these results be interpreted cautiously.)


  • The academic performance of charter schools varies more widely than that of corresponding traditional public schools. This discrepancy was not found in the other locations included in the study. RAND points out that closing the lowest-performing charters would raise the average performance of Ohio charter schools overall.


  • The wide variation may be due in part to the diversity of charter school authorizers in Ohio and to the state’s funding system for charter schools.


  • As in other states, charter schools have trouble raising achievement among students in their first year of operation. RAND adds that opening a new school is challenging-charter or otherwise-and that charter schools tend to improve over time.


For the full-length report, click here.