Year of Publication

2006

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Problem Statement

Many issues exist in the public school system in the United States today. The main problems are: 1) American students are performing below their peers in other developed nations; 2) American high school graduates have trouble competing in the global economy; 3) Large achievement gaps exist between subgroups of American students. One of the many recommended policy solutions is to create charter schools to induce innovation and competition into the public school system.

Research Question

While many researchers have looked at charter school outcomes, few consider the effects of charter school laws on student achievement. My research question asks how various components of charter school laws affect the performance of charter school students relative to a matched sample of their traditional public school counterparts.

Literature Review

Research shows mixed reviews of charter school student performance. Comparability between states is often difficult due to variability between charter schools in each state. This study addresses that problem.

Methodology

This study looks at a sample of 1,153 matched pairs of charter school schools and traditional public schools. Differences in reading and math proficiency levels are reported for fourth graders whenever possible. A regression was estimated using the difference in proficiency levels between charter school students and their matched public school counterparts as the dependent variable. Independent variables pertained to state law components and other important school level variables.

Key Results

  • Allowing for multiple issuing authorities and some non certified teachers is associated with positive outcomes for charter school students.
  • Being very flexible in the number of charter schools making new starts (as opposed to converting public schools to charter schools) and not requiring local support is associated with negative outcomes for charter school students.
  • Some state monitoring of charter school staffing improves student outcomes.

Recommendations

  • States should ensure that they are allowing for innovation in schools while providing a basic oversight function.
  • Results from this study should be replicated in the future to verify policy implications. Charter school researchers should control for the effects of charter school laws in future evaluations of charter school performance.

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