Charters & Choice

Overview Caroline Hendrie

Charters & Choice

Over the past two decades, charter schools have emerged as the fastest growing form of school choice, outpacing other alternatives such as vouchers, magnet schools, and homeschooling. Charters have also become a touchstone for how people feel about a host of related issues: job protections for teachers, the role of elected school boards and teachers unions, and the privatization of schools. The materials compiled in this section of Story Starters examine the ways charter schools and other school choice options play out in the education process.

Over the past two decades, charter schools have emerged as the fastest growing form of school choice, outpacing other alternatives such as vouchers, magnet schools, and homeschooling. Charters have also become a touchstone for how people feel about a host of related issues: job protections for teachers, the role of elected school boards and teachers unions, and the privatization of schools. The materials compiled in this section of Story Starters examine the ways charter schools and other school choice options play out in the education process.

Charter schools are publicly funded but run by independent boards. Usually, their teachers are not unionized and the operators do not have to adhere to all of same government regulations as district schools. Critics of charter schools argue they represent an attack on the public education system, erode the power of school boards and teachers unions, and can drain traditional schools of resources and more motivated families. Supporters say charter schools’ relative freedom from traditional structures allows them to “innovate” by lengthening the school day or experimenting with the curriculum, for example. Supporters also maintain charters provide families, particularly poor ones, with more options and, at their best, spur the rest of the public system to improve.

Historical Developments

The nation’s first modern charter school opened in 1992 in St. Paul, Minn., after that state became the first to pass legislation paving the way for the quasi-public, quasi-private schools. At the time of their inception, charter schools attracted politically diverse supporters with very different motivations. Some, including former American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker, hoped the schools might empower teachers to come together around a shared vision. Others, including William Bennett, the secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan, hoped charters would create an educational “marketplace” and challenge the government’s virtual monopoly on running schools. Those same tensions over the purpose of charters persist today.

Charter schools have grown rapidly in number since 1992, as most states have adopted legislation allowing for their creation. Charters proliferated in the wake of several unsuccessful efforts to create or expand school voucher programs—which direct public funds to private schools —in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many state lawmakers, particularly Republicans, saw charters as a more politically viable means of introducing choice and competition into the public education sphere.  As of 2017, only eight states did not have some form of charter school law in place. And the number of students attending the independently run schools topped 2.6 million by 2014-15—up from 1.6 million five years earlier.

Charter school laws vary considerably among states. They differ in terms of who can approve and start a charter school, the length of the contract, and whether the teachers can belong to unions. Typically, state laws will spell out who can authorize charter schools: Most often state departments of education and local school boards serve as authorizers, although in some states universities, nonprofits, community groups and other governmental entities can as well. An independent charter board usually signs a contract—or “charter”—with the authorizer detailing the school’s plan and the performance goals it agrees to live up to over a set time frame.

Perennial Issues

Over the  years, much of the debate over charter schools has focused on their performance, which most researchers concur is not significantly better or worse than traditional public schools, on average. Critics pointedly note that charter schools have failed to transform public education and continue to draw outsized attention and private funding given what they see as mediocre results. But charter supporters home in on the hundreds of charter schools that are outperforming their traditional counterparts, arguing that it’s these exemplars whose work and approach should—and can—be replicated.

The charter school movement also faces scrutiny over whether authorizers have been aggressive enough in closing poor and mediocre charter schools, particularly because the premise of charters is that they trade greater autonomy for greater accountability.

Charter schools’ education philosophy, curriculum, popularity, and funding vary just as much as their results. Some charters are highly structured, while others have adopted progressive educational approaches, including Montessori and project-based learning. Some have waiting lists of hundreds of students, while others struggle to fill their seats. And some receive millions of dollars from private donors or foundations, while others spend less per pupil than traditional schools.

While the majority of charter boards operate just one site, some charter schools are overseen by charter management organizations (CMOs) or education management organizations (EMOs). These are groups that run multiple schools, sometimes in a single geographic area and other times across different cities or states. EMOs manage a set of schools, usually imposing curriculum choices from the top down. EMOs do not always manage just charter schools, and they are more likely to be for-profit than CMOs.

Charter management organizations tend to function less like businesses than EMOs; CMO schools are united more by a shared educational philosophy than a particular business structure. When a CMO runs multiple schools in the same city or geographic area, the schools typically share “central office” or “back office” services, however. A majority of the nation’s charter schools—about 70 percent—are unaffiliated with management organizations. But CMO-led schools are growing at a faster rate than other types of charter schools, and many people consider them to be the future of the charter school movement, particularly in cities. A string of reports put out by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington scrutinized the sustainability of charter management organizations, which often rely on private funding sources and require their staffs to work longer school days. The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) is one of the best known CMOs; as of 2017, it operated 209 schools in 20 states.

The charter school movement also faces scrutiny over whether authorizers have been aggressive enough in closing poor and mediocre charter schools, particularly because the premise of charters is that they trade greater autonomy for greater accountability.

Other Types of Choice

Voucher programs let families send their children to private schools using government-funded tuition vouchers. Usually, voucher programs are limited to low-income families or students with special needs. The first modern voucher program started in Milwaukee in 1990. A coalition of African-American Democrats in the city and conservative leaders at the state level fought for the program. Voucher debates often produce unlikely political coalitions: Backers who see school choice for poor families as a social justice issue are often joined by those who favor a market-oriented approach to education. There are currently several voucher programs across the country, including in the District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. As with charter schools, the research on vouchers is very mixed. The limited data that exist suggest the academic impact of vouchers is negligible.

Tuition tax credits provide tax incentives for contributions to organizations that provide privately funded scholarships for students who want to attend private schools. In other forms, voucher-like tax credits offer parents who choose private schools some return on their costs. About a dozen states have some form of private school tax-credit program, including Arizona, Florida, and Iowa. Such programs have sometimes been described as “backdoor vouchers” because they create a more indirect mechanism for public money to subsidize private schools. Unlike vouchers, they are usually not limited to low-income or disabled students. Like charters, tax credit programs proliferated in the late 1990s and early 2000s as school choice backers discovered they were more politically palatable than vouchers.

Magnet schools usually have a specific theme or curricular focus, like the arts or technology, and draw students from throughout a city or geographic region. Magnets originated in the 1970s as part of voluntary and mandatory desegregation efforts across the country. The theory was that magnets would be able to attract diverse student bodies more easily than most neighborhood schools. In some cities magnets have selective admissions, meaning students have to audition or take a test to get in; in others they are open to all regardless of ability. Magnets declined in political popularity after the 1980s, when many states and cities started to dismantle school desegregation programs and charter schools began to flourish. Although their growth has stalled, magnet schools still exist in about 30 states and enroll about two million students, approximately the same number as charter schools.

Additional forms of school choice include home schooling, virtual schools, and interdistrict transfer programs.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Developments Signal More Growth for Charters

The nation’s charter schools sector appears poised for still more growth — and potentially increased geographic diversity — as several states that have long resisted the push for charters may finally allow them. Also, a fresh round of federal grants and new expansion plans by charter networks are fueling the upward trend.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions For… NCEE’s Marc Tucker
On School Accountability, Teachers, and the Common Core

Marc Tucker

Marc Tucker, president and chief executive of the National Center on Education and the Economy, recently unveiled a proposed accountability plan for public schools that includes significantly reducing the number of tests students take, and building extensive professional development time for teachers into every school day. He spoke with EWA.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Nashville Charter School Focuses on Neighborhood’s Needs

When LEAD Public Schools came into Nashville in 2010, they took over a campus that had seen a history of low performance and substantial overhauls. Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools intended to close the site – most recently occupied by Cameron Middle School – outright.

“This was a persistently struggling school for quite some time,” said Shaka Mitchell, who oversees public affairs for the Nashville charter network.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Nashville Magnet School Students Sing Different Tune

More than a few reporters at EWA’s National Seminar who signed up for the visit to Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville suggested that the campus would certainly be infused with country music elements. Perhaps cowboy hats and boots on each student, with future Taylor Swifts and Scotty McCreerys singing their way through the halls – right?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Authorizer Effect: Creating High-Quality Charter Schools

The Authorizer Effect: Creating High-Quality Charter Schools

Can the quality of a charter school be determined by the entity providing the authorization?

While the research on this question has been mixed, education and policy analysts agree that charter school authorizers wield significant power – particularly when it comes to deciding to launch a school, or to shutter one that fails to meet expectations.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Happens When States Take Over School Districts?

Dan Varner of Excellent Schools Detroit speaks at the 67th National Seminar.

State takeover districts have been lauded as the savior of children left behind by inept local school boards — and derided as anti-democratic fireworks shows that don’t address the root causes of poor education. Three panelists took an hour during EWA’s National Seminar in Nashville to get beyond the flash and noise and discuss the real challenges of state school takeovers, a process all acknowledged is disruptive.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Will ‘Portfolio District Model’ Yield Returns on Investment?

The idea has a simple, seductive appeal. Expand the things that work, cut short the things that don’t.

The notion, drawn from the investment world, has manifested itself in public education as the “Portfolio District Model.” Instead of managing stocks and bonds, school districts manage schools, creating or expanding successful ones, closing unsuccessful ones, focusing with zeal on academic results.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

An International Viewpoint on Vouchers

Some of these Swedish soccer fans likely went to a school that's part of Sweden's voucher system. (Source: Wikimedia)

Do choice and competition improve education systems? Plenty of advocates and well-heeled foundations think so, underwriting research and efforts to bring more charter schools and voucher programs to fruition. But in Sweden, the market dynamics of school choice seem to have produced troubling results for the Scandinavian nation.

Key Coverage

Florida’s Charter Schools: Unsupervised Investigation

Unchecked charter-school operators are exploiting South Florida’s public school system, collecting taxpayer dollars for schools that quickly shut down.

A recent spate of charter-school closings illustrates weaknesses in state law: virtually anyone can open or run a charter school and spend public education money with near impunity, a Sun Sentinel investigation found.

Multimedia

The Authorizer Effect

The Authorizer Effect

Whether it’s a curriculum that makes religion the fourth “R,” a principal who steers lucrative contracts to family members, or test scores that remain stuck in the cellar, charter schools often make the news for all the wrong reasons. Analysts have long seen a connection between problem charters and the process for deciding who gets a charter to operate in the first place. But how much difference does the quality of charter authorizing actually make? Have efforts to strengthen charter authorizing been effective, and if so, where?

Multimedia

Achieving a New State: A Look at State Turnaround Districts

Achieving a New State: A Look at State Turnaround Districts

More places are experimenting with state-run initiatives to address chronically low-performing public schools. Converting such schools to charters is among the strategies these state-led districts employ. We showcase leading examples of the trend, including the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Observers also comment on the Louisiana Recovery School District and the Michigan Education Achievement Authority. How well are their strategies working?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, EWA’s Emily Richmond talks with Phi Delta Kappa’s Bill Bushaw about a new Gallup/PDK poll on attitudes toward public education. Watch it here!

The PDK/Gallup poll generated some media buzz, and when viewed alongside two other education polls released this week, reveals a populace that has an ambivalent view on the state of U.S. schools. 

Catch up with news coverage of the polls’ results and responses from stakeholders below:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Dissecting the Data on Charter Schools

A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) concludes that charter school students in some states are making respectable academic gains while others are falling behind their peers at traditional public schools. (You’ll find a handy aggregation of the media coverage at EdMedia Commons.) The new CREDO report, like much of the charter schools research, is expected to spur criticism of its methodology and findings.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Rates States’ Laws

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy organization, has released its new report “Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter School Laws.” States were ranked based on a variety of factors including how difficult it is for charters to get up and running, whether states allow multiple authorizers (which typically means organizers have more opportunities to win approval), and whether there is a cap on the total number of charter schools allowed to operate.

EdMedia Commons Archive

Five Questions For … Nina Rees, Newly Named President and CEO of the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, representing 5,600 schools in 41 states and the District of Columbia, has announced the appointment of Nina Rees as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer. Rees previously served as first assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, and more recently spent more than six years as senior vice president for strategic initiatives for Knowledge Universe, a global education company.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Parent Trigger: Too Much Firepower for Public Education?

There’s a significant buzz out of Florida regarding proposed legislation that would enact a so-called “Parent Trigger:” Dissatisfied families could vote to have a local public school undergo significant restructuring including being converted to a charter school or turned over to a private operator.

Similar legislation has passed in California and Texas, not without controversy and ensuing conflict, and Indiana is also considering enacting a parent trigger.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Do Small Schools Work for Latinos?

Former New York CIty Mayor Michael Bloomberg viewed breaking up large failing high schools and creating smaller ones as one potential remedy to closing the achievement gap.

Now his successor, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio will have the opportunity to reverse the program.

In a commentary piece for Education Week, University of California, Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller writes that many of the smaller campuses just furthered segregation by race and class. Small schools sometimes have just 200 students.

EWA Radio

Knowing Their Choices: Assessing Efforts to Inform Parents

More parents are facing educational choices they never had before. Privileged families have always successfully navigated the complexities around schools, but lower-income families haven’t necessarily done so. What new ways are being tried to get information in the hands of a broader array of parents? As organizations step in to  offer guidance, reporters can learn from the processes they use.

Multimedia

Choice and Competition: Improving or Undermining Public Education?

Choice and Competition: Improving or Undermining Public Education?

Is there evidence that empowering all parents to choose among competing schools—district-run, charter, and private—leads to better outcomes for students? Will a critical mass of charter schools in a community be a catalyst for positive change or for school closings that leave students behind? Advocates with different views debate whether competition threatens to destroy public education or is strengthening it one school at a time. Panelists include Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Kevin P. Chavous of the American Federation for Children.

Multimedia

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

Charter Schools’ Role in Turnaround and Transformation

How does the charter school model factor into efforts to turn around low-achieving campuses? Why haven’t more charter management organizations signed on for school turnarounds? What questions should reporters be asking when faced with conflicting data on charter school performance?

Key Coverage

Charter School Performance Study Finds Small Gains

Charter students on the whole end the school year with reading skills eight instructional days ahead of public school kids, and perform at about the same rate as public school students in math, according to the study released Tuesday by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Parents Want to Know About School Choice: Tips for Reporters

At EWA’s 66th National Seminar, held at Stanford last month, we examined the challenge of how reporters can best evaluate charter school research in a session moderated by the Huffington Post’s Joy Resmovits. We asked some of the education reporters attending the seminar to contribute blog posts from the sessions.

Report

National Charter School Study 2013

In the aggregate, charter school students in the 26 states in the new study gained an additional 8 days of learning each year in reading beyond their local peers in traditional public schools. The 2009 study found a loss of 7 days each year in reading among the students in the 16 states. In mathematics, charter school students in 2009 posted 22 fewer days of learning than their traditional public school counterparts; today there exists no significant difference in days of learning.

Organization

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization that works to improve “the academic and operational quality of public charter schools so that ‘charter’ is recognized as a reliable brand, [clear] the legislative path for increased growth so high-quality charter schools can meet parent demand, [and secure] the sustainability of charter schools by moving toward fiscal equity in public funding, particularly for charter facilities.”

Organization

National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education

The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education aims “to provide an independent, non-partisan source of analysis and information on privatization in education.” In addition to their own research regarding the charter school movement, the NCSPE also tracks news coverage of charter schools, linking to stories nationwide. The Center is based at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Organization

National Association of Charter School Authorizers

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers, headquartered in Chicago, works to ensure that the groups establishing and operating charter schools have the resources and support to educate children. The “Authorizer Comparison” tool, an interactive map which details state-by-state the statistics for charter schools, is one of the many useful reporting resources available on the association’s site.

Organization

Center for Research on Education Outcomes

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes, originally established at Rochester University in 1999 and now based at Stanford University, looks at education reform “with an emphasis on rigorous program and policy analysis as the means of informing and improving education decision making.” Their 2009 report that found that students at charter schools nationwide overall performed at the same level or worse than those in traditional public schools is one of the landmarks in the discussion of charter schools.

Organization

Center on Reinventing Public Education

Founded in 1993 at the University of Washington, the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s “work is based on two premises: that public schools should be measured against the goal of educating all children well, and that current institutions too often fail to achieve this goal.” Their National Charter School Research Project and District-Charter Collaboration Compacts are valuable resources for journalists covering school choice issues.

Organization

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice advocates for universal school choice, which it sees as “the most effective and equitable way to improve the quality of K-12 education in America.” According to its mission statement, the organization was “founded upon the ideals and theories of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and economist Rose D. Friedman.” Among other activities, the organization keeps close tabs nationally on legislation and laws related to private school choice, particularly vouchers and tax credit scholarships. 

 

Organization

Black Alliance for Educational Options

The Black Alliance for Educational Options, based in Washington, D.C. and founded in 2000, “firmly believes parental choice programs, which lead to the creation of quality educational options, not only rescue the children who can take advantage of such opportunities but also create powerful incentives for all schools, public and private, to improve.”

Organization

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform “is a national policy-research and reform support organization that promotes quality education for all children, especially in urban communities. The Institute’s primary lines of inquiry include school transformation, college and career readiness, and extended learning time.” Founded in 1993 and based at Brown University, their research on school turnarounds often examines charters and other choice options

Key Coverage

Internal Recording Reveals K12 Inc. Struggled to Comply With Florida Law

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida have obtained internal emails and a recording of a company meeting that provide new insight into allegations that K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education company, uses teachers in Florida who do not have all of the required state certifications. 

Key Coverage

D.C. Debates Growth of Charter Schools

It’s the latest sign that the District is on track to become a city where a majority of children are educated not in traditional public schools but in public charters: A California nonprofit group has proposed opening eight D.C. charter schools that would enroll more than 5,000 students by 2019.

Key Coverage

Class Struggle: How Carter Schools Get Students They Want

Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?
These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools.

Report

Shuttered Public Schools: The Struggle to Bring Old Buildings New Life

Large-scale public school closures have become a fact of life in many American cities, and that trend is not likely to stop now. In a previous study, The Pew Charitable Trusts looked at a wide range of issues involved in the shuttering of buildings, including the impact on students. For this report, we focused on what happens to the buildings themselves, studying the experiences of Philadelphia and 11 other cities that have decommissioned large numbers of schools in recent years.

Key Coverage

Classes a la carte: States Test a New School Model

Call it the a la carte school. The model, now in practice or under consideration in states including Louisiana, Michigan, Arizona and Utah, allows students to build a custom curriculum by selecting from hundreds of classes offered by public institutions and private vendors. A teenager in Louisiana, for instance, might study algebra online with a private tutor, business in a local entrepreneur’s living room, literature at a community college and test prep with the national firm Princeton Review – with taxpayers picking up the tab for it all.

Key Coverage

Vouchers Gain Foothold Among State, Local Democrats

But at the state and local levels, Democrats’ views on vouchers are more diverse and nuanced than what is suggested by the party’s national platform, which makes no mention of private school choice, or by the policies of the Obama administration, which has consistently opposed providing public money for private school costs. Some Democrats see vouchers as offering an escape hatch for students who would otherwise be forced to stay in academically struggling public schools.

Key Coverage

Teachers Unions’ Alliance with Democratic Party Frays

Teachers unions have been the Democratic Party’s foot soldiers for more than half a century, providing not only generous financial backing but an army of volunteers in return for support of their entrenched power in the nation’s public schools.
But this relationship is fraying, and the deterioration was evident Monday as Democrats gathered here for their national convention.

Key Coverage

Competition for Students Squeezes Parochial Schools

The nation’s Roman Catholic schools have labored for decades under increasingly adverse economic and demographic conditions, which have undermined their finances and sapped their enrollment. Today, researchers and supporters say those schools face one of their most complex challenges yet: the continued growth of charter schools.
Since they first opened two decades ago, charter schools have emerged as competitors to Catholic schools for reasons connected to school systems’ missions, their academic models, and the populations they serve.

Key Coverage

National PTA Revises Policy on Charter Schools

“The National Parent Teacher Association has revamped its policy to make it clear that it supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools.”

Report

School Choice Demonstration Project School Choice Demonstration Project (An Evaluation of Milwaukee’s Voucher Program)

These ongoing studies from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform analyze several aspects of Milwaukee’s voucher programs, including parent satisfaction, student results, and fiscal impact. While they found parent satisfaction levels were high, they reported little evidence students in the voucher program were doing significantly better or worse in school than students in the traditional public system.

Report

National Charter School Research Project

The main study in this ongoing series by the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education evaluated the student demographics, learning practices and results at charter schools run by CMOs. Among other findings, its authors conclude that CMO-run school serve higher percentages of low-income, minority students than traditional schools but fewer children with special needs; and that CMO-run schools with comprehensive student behavior plans perform better than those without such plans in place.

Key Coverage

Charter Schools, Broken Promises

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. This investigative report examined the reasons Alabama’s 2010 Race to the Top application scored the fewest points of any state. It dispels the rumor that the status of  charter schools hurt the state’s bid for federal money: Only 40 points were at stake if the state heralded in more charters, which would have helped the state finish second to last in the RTT competition instead of last.

The article concludes that the state’s application writers missed many steps, and failed to consult key constituent groups, including labor organizations. 

Report

The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts

This 2010 study looked at student results in 36 charter middle schools across 15 states. Overall, it found charter school students learned at about the same rate as students in comparable traditional schools.

Key Coverage

The Challenge of Choice

This five-part series published in 2009 followed four families through the process of selecting and enrolling in schools in the city with the nation’s highest percentage of charters. It explored how socioeconomic class, connections and parent schedules can all affect a family’s capacity to find a quality school.

Key Coverage

Private School Tax Credits Rife with Abuse

This investigative series exposed corruption in Arizona’s private school tuition tax credit program. It showed that families who could already afford the cost of private schools were among the biggest beneficiaries of the program, which failed to increase minority student access to private options

Key Coverage

Even With Charter Schools, Alabama Would Have Flunked Race to the Top

EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. This investigative report examined the reasons Alabama’s 2010 Race to the Top application scored the fewest points of any state. It dispels the rumor that the status of  charter schools hurt the state’s bid for federal money: Only 40 points were at stake if the state heralded in more charters, which would have helped the state finish second to last in the RTT competition instead of last.

Report

Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States

This 2009 study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes evaluated charter school performance across several states. It found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional schools; 37 percent performed worse; and the rest, nearly half, performed about the same.

Key Coverage

Lessons from the Voucher Schools

In 2005, reporters visited nearly all of the schools in Milwaukee’s voucher program for this series. The articles looked at the lack of accountability in the program, and the role of religion at the schools, among other topics.

Report

Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program

This 2004 U.S. Department of Education report found that traditional schools outperformed charter schools on state performance standards. It hesitated to draw broad conclusions about charter schools’ relative merits, however, noting the large number of variables affecting school performance made apples to apples comparisons impossible.