California’s Charter Schools: 2009 Update on Issues and Performance

By Brian Edwards, Heather Barondess, Mary Perry, Eric Crane

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Description

What began in 1992 as an experiment to provide California parents and students with expanded school choices has grown into a significant public school segment. California’s charter schools educate more than 250,000 of the state’s students and have a prominent place in discussions among policymakers and educators about how to improve the nation’s public schools.

As pressure for improved student achievement continues to mount, charter schools remain a high profile and sometimes promising reform strategy. Less clear is to what extent—and under what conditions—these public schools successfully balance the goals of innovation and high education standards.

This EdSource publication, cowritten by WestEd Senior Research Associate Eric Crane, looks at the performance of California charter schools and explores policy issues:

  • Focus on Quality: The Challenges of Defining, Developing, and Duplicating Successful Charter Schools. When it comes to the multiple goals that policymakers have set out for charter schools, different segments of the charter school community focus on different goals. This article describes efforts to create definitions and indicators of “quality,” which often center around state test scores, and the challenges to increasing the number of high-scoring charter schools.
  • Vital Statistics. This article describes the growth in California’s charter schools and students, and provides other data about the state’s charter movement.
  • Performance Update 2009. The first article in this section compares student characteristics in charter schools with their noncharter counterparts. The second article describes the lack of consensus on the definition of a charter management organization and analyzes test scores using both broad and narrow definitions.
  • Washington Signals Support. The authors review the proposals that the Obama Administration have made aimed at both expanding the number of charter schools and ensuring that they are delivering high-quality education. Federal funding increases for charters are also of note.

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