Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Study Finds Early Predictors of Charter School Success

A charter school’s performance in its first three years of operation is a solid predictor of the program’s long-term chances of success, a new study by Stanford University researchers concludes.

On Wednesday Stanford’s  Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) published Charter School Growth and Replication, which focuses on what can be learned from the track records of  more than 1,300 independently managed public schools and nearly 170 Charter Management Organizations (CMOs).

From the study’s lead author and CREDO director Margaret Raymond:

This report’s findings challenge the conventional wisdom that a young underperforming school will improve if given time. Our research shows that if you start wobbly, chances are you’ll stay wobbly. Similarly, if a school is successful in producing strong academic progress from the start, our analysis shows it will remain a strong and successful school.

We have solid evidence that high quality is possible from the outset. Since the study also shows that the majority of charter management organizations produce consistent quality through their portfolios – regardless of the actual level of quality – policy makers will want to assure that charter schools that replicate have proven models of success.


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a statement from its president and chief executive Nina Rees in response to the latest CREDO study:


The charter school movement is making great strides at advancing quality as it continues to grow. Policy makers are working tirelessly to strengthen charter laws and educators and advocates are increasing their focus to ensure that growth and achievement can happen together, particularly for low-income and minority students. These efforts are continuing to show in recent research.

The CREDO report also validates the importance of charter school authorizers – groups that are able to hold charter schools accountable for student achievement, and ensure that those that are not serving students with a high-quality public education no longer have that privilege. Over the past several years, between 100 and 200 public charter schools have closed annually and that’s largely a good thing.

Among the study’s key findings:

*Charter schools can start off with high-quality programs, “disproving the notion of a universal rocky start-up period.” Strong starters can grow into successful charter school networks.

*CMOs had better learning gains than traditional public schools and independently operated charter schools when it came to certain student populations. The greatest impact was seen among minority children living in poverty.

*When CMOs add new schools, the quality of the programs is consistent with the other campuses already operating in the network. That finding should serve to remind policymakers and educators to consider track records carefully when deciding whether a CMO should be allowed to expand, the study concluded.

For more on these issues, visit the EWA News Topics  online resource on Charters & Choice.


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