California’s Charter Schools: Measuring Their Performance

By Eric Crane, Brian Edwards, Noli Brazil

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Description

How does the academic performance of California charter schools differ from that of noncharter schools? Do certain kinds of charter schools perform better than others?

Coauthored by WestEd’s Eric Crane, this report addresses these questions, focusing on the impact California charter schools are having on student performance. Key findings include:

  • Charter schools managed by charter/educational management organizations outperformed other charter schools.
  • Classroom-based charters had higher math scores than nonclassroom-based charters.
  • Charter middle schools performed higher than traditional public middle schools.
  • Charter high schools performed higher than traditional high schools on the Academic Performance Index (API), which combines results from multiple subjects; however, math scores were lower in charter high schools.

Crane and fellow researchers analyzed statewide test data using a research method that made it possible to compare groups of schools that serve somewhat different students. Charter elementary, middle, and high schools are each compared to their noncharter counterparts. In addition, the report compares the performance of various subgroups of charter schools, including start-ups versus conversions, those that operate as more traditional classroom-based schools versus nonclassroom-based, and those that are operated by a school management organization versus charter schools that are not.

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