The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has released a report that evaluates the performance of public charter schools in Washington, D.C. and 25 states. "The Health of the Public Charter School Movement: A State-By-State Analysis," looks at the progression and performance public charter school movement.
The report is the first to provide an assessment specifically focused on each state’s public charter school movement. It ranks the strength of each locale using 15 indicators in three categories: growth, or the overall number of schools available and students served; innovation, defined as the “use of various innovative practices,” such as an extended school year; and quality, measured in additional days of learning for both reading and math.
Washington, D.C. and Louisiana came in first and second, respectively, earning high marks for offering multiple charter school options for families, serving high numbers of economically disadvantaged youth, and showing strong student achievement gains. Nevertheless, the report suggests that both states ought to make efforts to secure equitable operational funding.
At the other end of the spectrum, Oregon and Nevada occupied the bottom two spots because they serve a low percentage of the state’s population of public school children, and their charters aren’t producing gains in reading and math. For these low performers, the report suggests changes in law that would allow for more in-school autonomy and more accountability.
To be included in the report, states had to participate in the 2013 CREDO study and have at least 1 percent of public school students served by charters.
Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, hopes the Health of the Public Charter School Movement report will serve as a "yearly benchmark of progress in the charter school movement" and that "policymakers will view it as a valuable annual assessment of their state" and consider the policy recommendations to help strengthen their charter schools.
According to Rees the report will assist parents and school choice advocates:
"The report will help parents by serving as a meaningful indicator of how well charter schools are performing in their state. Most importantly, we believe parents will be interested in the quality metrics each year. As parents decide where to send their children to school, they may also be interested in looking at the growth of their public charter school movements and how innovative their schools are.
Charter school advocates should see the new report as an opportunity to have an honest conversation about the charter school movement in their state. Where there are strengths or weaknesses, this report highlights them, paving the way for future policy discussions and advocacy around growing and strengthening their charter school movement."
The report will also help legislators Rees says, "By taking a look at the ways public charter schools are effectively serving students and identifying opportunities for growth, legislators will be able to design and implement policies that address the needs of the families, students, and charter school communities in their states."
The Alliance acknowledges that improvement can still be made in identifying and collecting comprehensive data on public charter schools. But, in the meantime, the new report offers clarity to a movement that is too frequently plagued by misunderstanding.
Franklin School Choice Fellow