A recently released report from researchers at Stanford University seriously questions the amount of learning imparted to Ohio’s charter school students. The report, released by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) is titled “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States“. It contains a longitudinal, student-level data analysis that covers more than 70 percent of the nation’s students that attend charter schools, including Ohio. Multiple Choice includes over 1.7 million records from more than 2400 charter schools.
On a national level, 2,403 charter schools were ranked on the study’s “Charter School Market Fixed Effects Quality Curve” to determine the relationship to students’ math gains. Nearly 46 percent of charter schools’ results were “indistinguishable from the average growth among their traditional public school comparisons”. A further 37 percent of charter schools posted math gains that were “significantly below what their students would have seen if they enrolled in local traditional public schools instead”.
Researchers noted that states who allow multiple organizations to serve as charter school sponsors achieve “significantly lower growth in academic learning”. In states that allow multiple charter school sponsors, researchers hypothesized that “charter school operators are able to identify and choose the more permissive entity to provide them oversight”.
Ohio’s Data Portrait
In Ohio, over 36,000 students from 321 charter schools were followed for up to three years of schooling, beginning with the 2005-2006 school year and ending in 2007-2008. State achievement tests for Grades 3-8 were followed. Researchers also created “composite virtual students” that were based on students in competing traditional public schools, also known as the charter’s “feeder pool”. This feature allowed Multiple Choice researchers to compare charter students to equivalent traditional public school students.
Compared to their counterparts in traditional school districts, new charter students in Ohio undergo an initial loss of learning in both reading and math, according to the study. Researchers were able to establish that charter school students continued to experience “significant losses of learning in math after the first year of attendance”. Ohio was one of 6 states in the study that demonstrated lower than average charter school student growth as compared to peers in traditional public schools.
When disaggregated by race, African-American students in Ohio’s charter schools “receive no significant benefit in both reading and math” compared to traditional school peers. Hispanics who are enrolled in Ohio’s charters “receive a significant loss of learning compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools in both reading and math”. Students in poverty enrolled in charter schools did show higher gains in reading and math than among their traditional school counterparts.
Special Education students, English Language Learners (ELLs) and retained charter school students all receive “no significant benefit compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools in both reading and math”, according to the CREDO study.
Finally, Multiple Choice researchers tried to establish if Ohio charter schools were able to produce relatively better growth results than traditional public schools, as charter advocates have claimed. According to the researchers, in Ohio, “charter schools do about the same as traditional public schools in reading and that charter school attendance leads to significantly worse results in math across all deciles for students compared to their virtual peers from traditional public schools”.