Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Charter School Evaluations

Western Michigan University has spent a lot of time on charter school evaluation. I went back to the very first report, and a lot of what they had to say is still true today. In any case, if you are interested in charter schools, here are some links:

Western Michigan University Evaluation Center
First Evaluation of Michigan Charter Schools (1999)
Second Evaluation of Michigan Charter Schools (2000)
Great Lakes Center for Education and Research (Charter Schools). Scroll down for the section on  Evaluating the Impact of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: A Longitudinal Look at the Great Lakes States (2007)
In particular, Appendix D focuses on Michigan, and says this:
Aside from the cap on university-sponsored charter schools, the Michigan charter school law is generally seen to be among the least restrictive. The Center for Education Reform consistently rates Michigan’s charter school law among the most permissive.2 Chi and Welner (in press)3 rated Michigan as one of the weakest charter school laws, because of issues related to equity of access, accountability, and proliferation of private interests. Michigan’s charter school reform is unique in that three-quarters of its charter schools are operated by for-profit education management organizations. Michigan is also somewhat unique in that the average size of charter schools in approaching the average size of traditional public schools.
Here is a Free Press article about Charter Schools and Segregation, and another one that suggests that charter schools (overall) do not live up to their promise.  What have your experiences been? I am hoping to look at each of the county's charter schools over the next few months.


  1. They aren't really that good. Some parents like it, feel it is better than public schools, and it's as close to a private school they can get. They are pretty out of control as far as accountability, it's a real problem.

  2. What are the problems you see as far as accountability? Who should they be accountable to and why aren't they accountable?

  3. Curriculum is a problem, both what is presented and expected and who is coordinating it, special ed is huge problem, sometimes the teachers themselves are problems, they are more than sometimes staff that are hiding out there because a public school wouldn't hire them in the first place, although with the economy the way that is, that was probably truer a few years ago.
    There's the problem with the for profit model, kind of yucky for a school to have on it's psyche. There are many charters especially in Detroit that the problems with administration are scandalous, and I believe it will be the coming outrage of the next decade. There are people watching the charters, but the state doesn't truly get called in on a charter enough to ensure accountability. I believe the current state government is aware of the problems in charters.
    I read a really good article on charters written a few years back, and one thing that plagues a charter is organization. Sometimes a charter is founded on an ideal, and different people on the staff interpret the ideal to their comfort and there are no real mechanism to coordinate that. It descends to a level of a Methodist church dinner, everyone bringing their own dish to the table. School administrators don't have experience in finance or personnel and it's a non union shop, and the schools don't get as much money as regular public schools, so money is always tight.
    Charters and special ed are a sad nexus, and lots of times the staff at charters haven't even hear of an Intermediate School District, so it's a bizarre set up.
    Yet some people find a home there, and stay, because they had a bad experience in a public school, or really don't like their neighborhood school, some charters are trying in earnest to make themselves better, and the for profits like highly motivated scholastic kids, sort of running it like private Catholic schools, delivering a set reliable service certainly for some.

  4. I have heard suggestions to comparing charter schools to subgroups in public schools, such as "kids in orchestra" to try to find an "apples to apples" comparison.
    My concern about charters is that in some communities, it pulls out "stronger" children and families and stacks high needs in the public school. And I do like a balanced groups.
    That being said, it is easy to make suggestions from my current perspective (of loving where my children go to school.) If I were in a different community, I could see looking into a charter.
    I think what's tricky with education is that it involves *people* and there are so many variables there.

  5. Charters are taking public money, and they like to pretend sometimes they aren't.

  6. Charter schools are definitely here to stay -- parents want choice and that is really the key. That said, they are clearly a very mixed bag. The one I am familiar with requires parents to provide all transportation so it is easy to see why they have very few lower income students. They also tend not to get non-english speaking students. So, their outcomes can't really be compared to the traditional public schools that have a huge mix of types of students. A lot of the people that like charters are those whose kids are at risk for bullying, exclusion, or just plain going unnoticed. Apparently some of them do a good job with that population.