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Reason Foundation

The Great Charter School Debate Continued

Lisa Snell
June 11, 2009, 9:39pm

In the second installment of the "Great Charter School Debate" the Los Angeles Times asks:

Who do charters educate?
Are they taking their fair share of special-ed and English-language learners?

A snippet of my counterpoint:

There is little evidence that charter schools are succeeding because they are educating higher-performing students. A March 2009 Rand Corp. study, "Charter Schools in Eight States: Effects on Achievement, Attainment, Integration, and Competition," examined charters in Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Diego and the states of Florida, Ohio and Texas. It found that charter schools do not "skim" the top students away from traditional public schools. In fact, in many locations, students transferring to charter schools have below-average test scores. In addition, the Rand study found that charter transfers had surprisingly little effect on racial distributions of students. Typically, students transferring to charter schools moved to schools with racial distributions similar to those of the traditional public schools from which they came.

This is also true in Oakland. According to the Oakland Unified School District's annual scorecard, overall charter enrollment in Oakland includes a higher percentage of both English-learners and Latino students. About 51% of the students enrolled in Oakland charter schools are Latino, and about 30% are English-learners; at district-run schools, about 34% of the students are Latino, and about 29% are English-learners. On average, English-learners in Oakland charters outperformed those in Oakland's traditional public schools, 679 to 644, on the state's Academic Performance Index in 2008.


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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