Friday, October 23, 2009

Do Charter Schools Really Work?

California Charter Schools have a great way to channel taxpayers' money into educational projects that actually work! There are 750 charter schools serving over 276,000 students in California today. They are open to the public, tuition free, participate in state testing and have credentialed teachers. Not only this, they also provide funding for distance learning options including curriculum for preschool to 8th grade such as Time4Learning and online writing courses for kids provided by Time4Writing (full disclosure, I work for Time4Learning). These classes are provided not only to students physically attending these schools but they also provide resources to homeschooling families.

But who cares exactly what products are offered, the important thing is the results. Research has shown in the past that California charter schools are better at increasing student achievement than traditional public schools.* Another study found that 12 of the 15 top performing public schools in California serving children in poverty are charter schools.** And finally, a 2007 field study reported that charter school parents cited "challenging curriculum and individualized student attention as key reasons for their high level of satisfaction."

*Research based on the California Department of Education’s Academic Performance Index from 2004 – 2007 indicates that 11% more charters than traditional public schools show substantially higher student achievement by the end of the school year. **A November 2008 analysis conducted by the California Charter Schools Association examined 2008 Academic Performance Index (API) Growth Scores of California public schools with 70% or more Free and Reduced Price Lunch participants and found that 12 of the 15 top performing schools were charter schools.

Okay already with the research and the statistics, I'm convinced. So why aren't charter schools more prevelant? California is growing at a rate of 50 new charter schools every year, but this concept has only barely escaped the state borders or major cities. A few big cities are notable, Boston, Chicago and actually about 40 states have charter school experiements although most are restricted to these large cities.

According to a comprehensive study of charter schools conducted in June of this year by CREDO and Stanford University these states/cities had significantly higher learning gains for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools:
o Arkansas
o Colorado (Denver)
o Illinois (Chicago)
o Louisiana
o Missouri

As of 2009, more than 4,700 charter schools enrolled over 1.4 million children in 40 states. This is nearly identical to the number of homeschoolers in the US today. The ranks of charters grow by thousands each year. Even so, more than 350,000 names linger on waiting lists. Why isn't the federal government jumping on programs in the over performing states and cities to bring these best practices to all 50 states? Why aren't we clamoring for more out of the box thinking to solve our nations' educational crisis? How long will it take for us to adopt new approaches that may threaten traditional face-to-face teaching jobs (gasp)? As our test scores continue their slow decline, maybe the time is now.

For more information about state-by-state homeschooling options and standardized test preparation, see the list below for your state:

Standardized Tests by State –
Alabama: Alabama Reading and Mathematics Tests - ARMT
Alaska: Terra Nova - SBA HSGQE
Arizona: Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards - AIMS
Arkansas: Arkansas’ Augmented Benchmark Exam - AABE
California: Standardized Testing and Reporting - STAR
Colorado: Colorado Student Assessment Program - CSAP
Connecticut: Connecticut Mastery TestConnecticut Academic Performance Test - CMTCAPT
Delaware: Delaware Student Testing Program - DSTP
District of Columbia Information Found Here
Florida: Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test - FCAT
Georgia: Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests - CRCT
Hawaii: Hawaii State Assessment - HSA
Idaho: Idaho State Achievement Tests - ISAT
Illinois: Illinois Standards Achievement Test - ISAT
Indiana: Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress - ISTEP+
Iowa: Iowa Test of Basic SkillsIowa Tests of Educational Development - ITBS ITED
Kansas: Kansas State Assessment - KSA
Kentucky: Kentucky Core Content Tests - KCCT
Louisiana: LEAP Alternate Assessment - iLEAP
Maine: New England Common Assessment ProgramMaine Educational Assessment Maine High School Assessment - NECAP MEA MHSA
Maryland: Maryland School Assessment - MSA
Massachusetts: Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System - MCAS
Michigan: Michigan Educational Assessment Program - MEAP
Minnesota: Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments Series II - MCA II
Mississippi: Mississippi Curriculum TestSubject Area Testing Program - MCTSATP
Missouri: Missouri Assessment Program - MAP
Montana: Montana Comprehensive Assessment System - MontCAS
Nebraska: Nebraska State Accountability Assessments - NeSA
Nevada: Nevada Proficiency Examination Program - NPEP
New Hampshire: New England Common Assessment Program - NECAP
New Jersey: New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards - ASK
New Mexico: New Mexico Statewide Articulated Assessment Program - NMSBA
New York: New York State Testing Program - NYSTP
North Carolina: North Carolina Standardized Test - EOG
North Dakota: North Dakota’s State Assessment - NDSA
Ohio: Ohio Achievement Test - OAT
Oklahoma: Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests - OCCT
Oregon: Oregon Statewide Assessment System - OAKS
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania System of School Assessment - PSSA
Rhode Island: New England Common Assessment Program - NECAP
South Carolina: South Carolina Statewide Assessment Program - SC PASS
South Dakota: Dakota State Test of Educational Progress - STEP
Tennessee: Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program - TCAP
Texas: Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills - TAKS
Utah: Utah Performance Assessment System for Students - U-PASS
Vermont: New England Common Assessment Program - NECAP
Virginia: Virginia Standards of Learning - SOL
Washington: Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program - WCAP
West Virginia: West Virginia Educational Standards Test - WESTEST
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Knowledge and Concept Evaluation - WKCE
Wyoming: Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students - PAWS