The recently-released Stanford study shows that across the nation, charter schools don't perform as well as their traditional public education counterparts.
The study does note, however, that Denver charter school students did better than their traditional school peers. Colorado's charter school students tend to do better. According to "The State of Charter Schools in Colorado" report out two weeks ago, charter school students outperform on CSAP in the middle school grades but are relatively similar on elementary grade level scores and underperform at the high school level. The report went on to point out that more charter schools are recognized for school achievement with the School Accountability Report scores and rankings.
What's the difference between all these charter schools in the Stanford study? Here's just a few of the notable differences that impact student academic achievement:
* Autonomy. Colorado's charter schools have greater autonomy than states that operate "quasi-charter schools" with limited freedom to operate without traditional state regulations and district policies, such as teacher licensure.
* Caps. Colorado doesn't limit the number of charter schools that can be approved.
* Priority enrollment. Some states allow only students qualifying for a free or reduced-price lunch to enroll in a charter school. Colorado's law permits any student to enroll in a charter school.
* Academics. Compared nationally, Colorado's is atypical by having almost half of its charter schools using the Core Knowledge curriculum. Most states have more "home grown" or experiential charter schools.
* Student demographics. Early in Colorado's charter school history, Denver denied many charter school applications and it wasn't until the new decade before that changed. Consequently, many of the first charter schools were in suburban areas where starting a charter school was a grassroots movement.
* Capacity. In addition to the state's largest urban area not being friendly to charter schools initially, urban areas tend to rely upon management companies to start and operate charter schools. It wasn't until the 2004 passage of the Charter School Institute law that management companies became interested in opening a charter school in Colorado.
* Authorizer quality. Some authorizers in Colorado have approved lousy charter school applications. Whether bowing to political pressure or merely wanting to allow founders the freedom to try, some charter schools should never have been approved and to date, 19 charter schools have closed. Authorizers are much more attune to focusing on increasing student academic achievement in the charter schools they approve.
It's difficult to compare charter school student achievement across the country due to the vast differences in state chartering laws. In Colorado, the philosophy has always embodied the notion that a charter school shouldn't be operating unless it's focused on increasing student academic achievement.