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Business-Managed Democracy

“Business-managed democracies are those in which the political and cultural arrangements are managed in the interests of business”

Sharon Beder

Business-Managed Education

Charter School Performance

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In general the teaching standard in charter schools varies enormously. However, studies have failed to show that, on average, charter schools perform significantly better than public schools with similar demographics. In fact some show they perform worse. Researchers have noted that whilst a few charter schools use their freedom from regulation to innovate and hire talented but uncertified teachers, others use it to cut costs and run schools badly: ‘If bonanzas are realized in some places, they are apparently offset by catastrophes in others.’

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An Education Department analysis also found that the longer a charter school had been operating, the more test scores declined. Another study by researchers at Western Michigan University found that states where charter schools are mainly run for profit have worse learning outcomes.

Performance of Charter Schools – Some Studies


Year Researchers Scope Comparison with other Public Schools
2003 reference Rand Corporation for state government California No significant difference
2003 reference National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth graders No measurable difference
2004 reference Education Department fourth graders Performance worse
2005 reference Economic Policy Institute eleven states and DC No difference or performance worse
2006 reference Western Michigan University researchers Michigan, Ohio Performance worse
2006 reference National Center for Educational Statistics National Performance worse
2007 reference Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU), Arizona State University Six Great Lake states Performance worse
2009 reference CREDO National Charter School Study National Performance worse
2011 reference National Education Policy Center New York No significant difference, fewer English learners
NB: These studies compared schools and students of similar socio-economic background.
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The 2009 CREDO study by Stanford University, which examined 2400 charter schools in 16 states found wide variation in charter school performance but concluded that on the whole, "students in charter schools not faring as well as students in traditional public schools". 17% of charter schools had significantly better academic gains, 37% had significantly worse gains and 46% were not significantly different to traditional public schools.

However as some of the worst performing charter schools have been closed down the average performance of charters schools in the US has improved over the years, at least according to test scores. An updated 2013 CREDO study of charter schools in 27 states by Stanford University researchers found:

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In reading, charter school students on average have significantly stronger growth than [Traditional Public School] TPS students in 16 of the 27 states evaluated. Reading growth was weaker for charter students in eight states and similar in three states. In math, 12 state charter sectors had stronger growth than TPS, 13 states had weaker growth, and two had growth that was similar to TPS.

Given the extra funds that many charter schools receive and the extra time that students spend being drilled to pass standardised tests at charter schools, this result is not an overwhelming endorsement of charter schools. And what about all those students who suffered in disasterous charter schools for years before they were finally closed down?

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In Missouri, most charters schools do not meeting state proficiency standards and the state does not have the power to close even the worst performing of them.

  Pie Chart "Of the 8,518 Columbus students attending a charter school that had received a state rating for the 2007-2008 academic year, over 79% attended a school ranked D or F." This compares with 34 % of students in the Columbus City Schools (CCS) system.
Source: 'Funding Sub-Standard Local Charter Schools At The Expense Of CCS Students', Columbus Education Association, accessed 2010.
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Government Advocacy of Charter Schools

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Despite the dismal record of charter schools’ performance President Bush tried to facilitate their expansion with the reauthorisation of the NCLB Act by enabling school districts to ignore state caps on the number of charter schools if schools fail to reach Annual Yearly Progress for five years in a row. The Education Department also proposed to offer rural areas online charter schools.

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President Barack Obama is also a supporter of charter schools: ‘I doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois despite some reservations from teachers unions. I think it’s important to foster competition inside the public schools.’ He is promoting charter schools with the Race to the Top Fund.

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