There has been a lot of fear mongering and bashing of charter schools of late with Governor Haslam’s recent signing of the legislation lifting some restrictions on charter schools.  If we as free American citizens are going to take an active stand on an issue we are duty bound to make sure we are on the “correct” side of the issue; especially, where our most treasured resource, our children, are at stake.  Failing to educate and graduate children is not just an injustice done to that individual child, but has ramifications on their future generations and on our economy.  Studies show parents who are poorly educated have children who tend to be poorly educated.  Poorly educated members of society become a burden on that society through welfare distributions and incarceration.  An economy cannot grow if its citizens are not educated to fill increasingly technical and specialized jobs; it will at best stagnate or at worst begin to fall behind countries with better educated and better trained populations (such as China and India).

So what is the “correct” side of the charter school issue?  A better question is what is the “correct” side of any school choice, competition, and free-market education issue?  This site has been an effort to share the evidence that competition in education is not only what is required to improve education in the United States, but has been proven in repeated gold standard studies, in choice’s numerous forms, and in a multitude of countries, cities and states as not only improving education, but increasing parental and student satisfaction.

At TNSC we truly believe there will come a day when parents will be free to choose a safe school that will meet the unique, individual, cultural, academic, physical, intellectual, and emotional needs and interests of every child.  Just as today we condemn those who stood in front of school house doors attempting to keep black children out, future generations will look back with contempt at those who stood in front of the school house doors trying to keep children in schools that failed to educate, graduate or otherwise meet their needs.

Via links to resources, studies and news updates you will find information, not just on the charter school issue, but other choice options as well in our Resources and Fact-finding categories.   However, below we will share snippets of information from various papers, reports and studies specifically concerning charter schools since there is currently a lot of misinformation, fear mongering and out right lies in the media concerning charter schools.  Due to various reasons such as length, readability, state-specific or amount of knowledge verses the length of the paper these papers haven’t been included as permanent links under Resources and Fact-finding.

TNSC is not just an effort which strives to help you have informed opinions, but hopefully to also encourage you to become and informed and active advocate for school choice.  Please, join the fight for Tennessee’s children.

Fears versus facts about school choice:  An overview of issues surrounding the effects of competition on public education by John Garen, Ph.D.  May 5, 2011

Do charter schools and vouchers ‘skim the cream?’  A report by the U.S. Department of Education strongly dispels these fears.  The report indicates that charter schools, on average, enroll a slightly higher percentage of students eligible for reduced-price lunches. This group typically underperforms other students and represents a lower-income demographic. Also, in the year 2000, 52 percent of charter school students were minorities, compared with 41 percent for public schools.

Do charter schools ruin traditional public schools?  The claim often arises that charter schools and vouchers would ruin the public school system, but no evidence supports this. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite. Traditional public schools do better when faced with greater competition from charters and vouchers.

For example, Hoxby (2001) presents evidence from Michigan, Arizona and Milwaukee indicating that children in public schools show greater improvement when those schools face more competition from charters and vouchers. Chart 8 shows some of her findings regarding Michigan. Reading and math test scores show greater improvement for both fourth- and seventh-graders among public school students in districts with significant charter school options.

International evidence also supports this conclusion. Sandstrom and Bergstrom (2005) show that the widespread introduction of vouchers in Sweden improved test score results in public schools.

Do charter and voucher students perform well?  Students tend to do better, or at least as well, on achievement tests in voucher programs and charter schools as they do in traditional public schools.

DO CHARTER SCHOOLS “CREAM SKIM” STUDENTS AND INCREASE RACIAL-ETHNIC SEGREGATION?  Ron Zimmer, Michigan State University, Brian Gill, Mathematica Policy Research, Kevin Booker, Mathematica Policy Research, Stéphane Lavertu, University of Wisconsin, John Witte, University of Wisconsin Vanderbilt University, October 25-27, 2009

In this study, we examine whether charter schools are―cream skimming the best students from [traditional public schools] TPSs and whether students transferring to charter schools are transferring to schools with a greater share of their own race, thereby creating greater racial stratification.  Our study goes beyond much of the literature by using longitudinal student-level data across seven locations to track students from TPSs to charter schools, which creates better understanding of both their previous and subsequent peer environments.  Overall, it does not appear that charter schools are systematically skimming high achieving students or dramatically affecting the racial mix of schools for transferring students. Students transferring to charter schools had prior achievement levels that were generally similar to or lower than those of their TPS peers.  And transfers had surprisingly little effect on racial distributions across the sites: Typically, students transferring to charter schools moved to schools with similar racial distributions as the TPSs from which they came. There is some evidence, however, that African-American students transferring to charters are more likely to end up in schools with higher percentages of students of their own race, a finding that is consistent with prior results in North Carolina (Bifulco and Ladd, 2007; Booker, Zimmer, and Buddin, 2005).

In sum, the results suggest that the worst fears of charter opponents regarding student sorting have not been realized: charters are not ―cream skimming the best students, nor are they creating the white enclaves.  But, by the same token, we find little evidence that they are systematically reducing stratification by race or ability.

RHETORIC Versus REALITY  What We Know and What We Need to Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools by Brian Gill, P. Mike Timpane, Karen E. Ross, Dominic J. Brewer, Kevin Booker © Copyright 2007 RAND Corporation

This [2007, second edition] book reviews the theoretical foundations for vouchers and charter schools and the empirical evidence of their effectiveness as set forth in hundreds of recent reports and studies.  The literature analyzed includes studies that directly examine voucher and charter schools, in the United States and abroad, and, where relevant, comparisons between existing public and private schools.

The American standard—in which public funding is limited to government-operated schools—is neither logically necessary nor universally followed.  In many countries (Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and Chile, to mention a prominent few), public funding is provided to nongovernment schools.  In the United States, the federal government operates a voucher system in higher education:  Government-subsidized grants and loans are used by students at public and private institutions alike—including church-affiliated colleges and universities.  Even at the K–12 level, school districts sometimes pay specialized private providers (generally selected or approved by parents) to provide educational services to students with serious disabilities. Moreover, NCLB now requires large numbers of school districts around the country to subsidize a market in “supplemental educational services” (primarily tutoring) selected by parents from among a range of public and private providers.

Outside of education, voucher-like programs that use markets to achieve public-policy goals have become increasingly common—child-care and food-stamp programs, Section 8 housing subsidies, health-care financing, and even the tradable pollution credits of the Clean Air Act.  Policymakers look with increasing favor on programs that use private, charitable—and even religious—organizations to deliver public services.

Only two studies thus far have made use of randomized experimental  designs.   Hoxby  and  Rockoff  used  information  on  winners  and losers of randomized entrance lotteries for nine oversubscribed Chicago charter elementary schools to perform an experimental analysis of  the  performance  of  those  schools.  Because they were able to follow not only the students who won the lottery, but also those who lost the lottery and remained in public schools, they had a comparison group that controlled for unobservable differences between students.   They found that students who won the lottery and attended the  charter  schools  performed  better,  on  average,  in  both  reading and math than the students who lost the lottery and stayed in public schools.

Hoxby  and  Murarka  gathered  achievement  data  from  citywide sources in New York, connecting them with information on admissions lotteries from charter schools around the city.  They found that most  of  the  charter  schools  operating  in  New  York  City  in  2005–06 were  oversubscribed  and  therefore  operated  lotteries  to  determine admissions.   They used the lotteries to construct a treatment group of students who had won admission and a control group of students who had not.  For students who enrolled in the charter schools after

winning the lotteries, they found positive and statistically significant effects in both reading (measuring 0.04 standard deviations per year in charter schools) and math (measuring 0.09 standard deviations).  Although these results are specific to New York City, they are nonetheless more notable than the previous results in Chicago, because they  include  not  only  a  larger  number  of  schools,  but  also  a  large proportion of all the charter schools in the city.

Some of the strongest studies of charter-school achievement are statewide assessments that have been conducted in Michigan, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Idaho, Florida, California, and Wisconsin—states that have some of the largest numbers of charter schools.

Are Charter Schools Making a Difference?  Study of Student Outcomes in Eight States by Ron Zimmer, Brian Gill, Kevin Booker, Stephane Lavertu, Tim R. Sass, and John Witte, 2009 (Research Brief & Full Document)

Charter schools are not skimming the highest-achieving students from traditional public schools, nor are they creating racial stratification. When researchers examined the prior achievement-test scores of students transferring to charter schools, they found that those scores were near or below the local district or state average. This suggests that charter schools are not drawing the best students away from traditional public schools, as some opponents predicted that they would. Similarly, when the researchers looked at whether transfers to charter schools affected the distribution of students by race or ethnicity, they found that, in most sites, the racial composition of the charter school entered by a transferring student was similar to that of the traditional public school that he or she had left.

On average, across varying communities and policy environments, charter middle and high schools produce achievement gains that are about the same as those in traditional public schools. However, the achievement gains for charter elementary schools are challenging to estimate and remain unclear because elementary students typically have no baseline test scores at the time they enter kindergarten. For middle- and high-school levels, the research team found that achievement gains in charter schools and traditional public schools were about the same, with two exceptions. First, charter schools generally do not perform well in the first year of operation, when their students tend to fall behind. Gains generally occur thereafter. Second, there is reason for concern about the performance of virtual charter schools, which serve their students remotely in the students’ homes rather than in a school building. In the one location with a substantial number of virtual charter schools (Ohio), their students showed achievement gains that fell significantly short of those in traditional public schools and classroom-based charter schools.

Charter schools do not appear to help or harm student achievement in nearby traditional public schools. Some proponents have predicted that the presence of charter schools would have a positive effect on nearby traditional public schools by exerting positive competitive pressure; some opponents have worried that charter schools would harm students in nearby traditional public schools by draining resources. Neither theory was borne out by the study. The researchers examined student achievement in traditional public schools that had charter schools nearby, and they found that the presence of the charter schools did not appear to help or harm student achievement in the traditional public schools.

Students who attended charter high schools were more likely to graduate and go on to college. For the locations for which charter–high school graduation and college attendance rates were available — Chicago and Florida — the researchers found that attending a charter high school appeared to boost a student’s probability of graduating by 7 to 15 percentage points. Similarly, students who attended a charter high school appeared to benefit from an 8 to 10 percentage point increase in the likelihood that they would enroll in college.

The study holds several implications for policy and future research. First, the finding that charter schools are not drawing the highest-achieving students from traditional public schools can help alleviate some of the concerns held by policymakers. Second, the absence of effects on achievement in nearby traditional public schools suggests that the loss of students to charter schools is not having negative achievement effects on traditional public schools, but it also suggests that charter schools may not produce the hoped-for positive competitive effects in traditional public schools. Finally, this research makes clear the need to move beyond test scores and broaden the scope of measures used to evaluate success. This was the first study to extend the scope of outcome measures to include long-term outcomes, such as high-school graduation and college attendance, in addition to test scores, and the results are more encouraging than test scores alone would indicate. Future research on charter schools should seek to examine a broader and deeper range of student outcomes.

The research team analyzed longitudinal, student-level data from Chicago, San Diego, Philadelphia, Denver, Milwaukee, and the states of Ohio, Texas, and Florida.

Charter Schools: A Welcome Choice for Parents by Jason Richwine August 30, 2010

A study published by the Department of Education, “The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts,” highlights the many benefits of charter schools.  Among the DOE report’s key findings:

• Parental satisfaction with student development. Parents of charter students reported substantially greater satisfaction with their children’s academic and social development compared to parents of non-charter students.

• Parental satisfaction with schools.  Parents of charter students also reported much higher levels of satisfaction with their children’s schools.  Charter schools were rated “excellent” by 85 percent of parents,   while non-charter schools received the excellent rating by just 37 percent of parents.

EVERYONE WINS: How Charter Schools Benefit All New York City Public School Students by Marcus A. Winters, October 2009

The analysis reveals that students benefit academically when their public school is exposed to competition from a charter. Findings include:

  • For every 1 percent of a public school’s students who leave for a charter, reading proficiency among those who remain increases by about 0.02 standard deviations, a small but not insignificant number, in view of the widely held suspicion that the impact on local public schools of students’ departures for charter schools would be negative.
  • Competition from charter schools has no effect on overall student achievement in math.
  • In both math and reading, the lowest-performing students in public school benefit from competition from charter schools.

Gill and Booker recently reviewed the growing body of research measuring the effect of competition from charter schools on student learning in traditional public schools. Of the six studies they identified, three found that charter schools have a positive effect on students who remain in the traditional public school system, and three found no significant effect. No empirical research to date has found that competition from charter schools or any other form of school choice has had a negative impact on the academic performance of students who remain in traditional public schools.

  4. Research Brief: full document:

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