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Education Trust-Midwest applauds Michigan high-growth charter schools; shares concerns about low-growth charters highlighted by CREDO research study
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Publication date:January 15 2013
ROYAL OAK, MICH. (January 15, 2013) -- The Education Trust-Midwest applauds, with a note of caution, a new report on charter performance by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). The study found that a typical student in a Michigan charter school gains more learning in a year than his or her public school district school peer, amounting to about an additional two months of learning annually in reading and math.
“As an organization committed to what’s best for all students, we commend Michigan charter schools that are performing at high levels,” said Amber Arellano, executive director for Michigan’s only statewide organization devoted to closing the state’s achievement gaps and raising learning for all students.
“However, the study’s focus on average charter student learning gains masks some great disparities in Michigan charter performance. Some charter schools are doing well and should be recognized for that. Others are abysmal. The CREDO study itself noted this unfortunate disparity in charter student learning, showing that 25 percent of Michigan charter schools have both very low achievement and low student growth in some subjects, such as math. What’s more, low-performing charter operators are growing rapidly in Michigan.
“The question is, should the growth of chronically low-performing charter companies and organizations be funded by Michigan taxpayer dollars? The unequivocal answer is, absolutely not. Our children deserve the same performance standards and protections that are afforded children in leading states, such as Ohio.”
Ohio has one of the strongest charter accountability policies in the country. The state prevents the lowest-performing charter authorizers from opening new schools and forces poor-performing charters to close if they have not demonstrated strong student growth over three years.
The CREDO study, while valuable, is limited in some respects. It does not account, for instance, for 14% of charter school students, meaning that the report may not be entirely reflective of Michigan school populations and trends. It also does not review more than 30 new charter schools that opened this fall, or more than 20 percent of previously established charters whose schools were too small for CREDO’s study standards.
“Since CREDO embarked on its study, much has changed in Michigan,” said Sarah Lenhoff, assistant director of policy and research at the Education Trust-Midwest. “There may be something different about these newer or smaller charters, of which there are significant numbers in Michigan.”
Lenhoff said she lauded CREDO’s efforts to better understand student learning growth among students in Michigan. Lenhoff noted, however, that the study does not take into account potential differences in students who enroll in charters compared with students who do not. It may be students enrolling in charters are more academically motivated, and are more likely to have the resources to be transported out of their neighborhood.
“To compare these students with the students left behind could potentially inflate the charter’s impact on student performance,” Lenhoff added. “Studies that control for these differences compare students who enroll in charter schools with students who applied for charter lotteries but did not get in. Such studies provide a more apples-to-apples comparison of charter performance with traditional public schools. Additional study into student growth in Michigan would be helpful.”
The Education Trust-Midwest is Michigan's only statewide nonpartisan policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. Our mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African-American, Latino and American-Indian students in Michigan, and to provide honest, reliable information to our state's families and policymakers.