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Charter schools, racial segregation, and student achievement: Implications for the reauthorization of NCLB’s choice provisions and other school choice expansion. Dr. Janelle Scott New York University November 28-29, 2007

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Charter schools, racial segregation, and student achievement: Implications for the reauthorization of NCLB’s choice provisions and other school choice expansion

Dr. Janelle Scott

New York University

November 28-29, 2007

Paper prepared for the “Public school choice in a post-desegregation world: What have we learned and where are we going?” meeting. Storrs, CT

purpose
Purpose
  • Consider the claims that choice is a lever for academic achievement
  • Highlight the intra-sector charter school racial achievement gap
  • Offer contextual factors that relate to differential charter school achievement
  • Question the choice provisions under NCLB in light of this divide
what are charter schools
What are charter schools?

“Charter schools are innovative public schools providing choices for families and greater accountability for results.”

--www.uscharterschools.org

policy assumptions for charter schools
Policy assumptions for charter schools
  • Choice is a primary lever for increasing student achievement outcomes
    • For example, under NCLB, choice provisions are available to students in persistently underperforming or unsafe schools.
    • Charter schools are the dominant reform in post-Katrina New Orleans; restructured Philadelphia schools
    • New York recently lifted the cap for charters
accountability issues
Accountability issues
  • Charters are more likely to be held accountable for fiscal issues (Bulkley 2001; Gill, Timpane, Ross & Brewer 2001; Vergari 2001).
  • Measuring achievement in charters has been confounded by methodological and data issues (Gill et al. 2001; Miron & Nelson 2001).
  • NCLB subjects charter schools to the same scrutiny as traditional public schools, but state and local accountability systems do not necessarily do so.
the 2003 2004 charter achievement morass
The 2003-2004 charter achievement morass
  • AFT analysis of 2003 NAEP data finds that charter schools under-perform in comparison to traditional public schools.
  • Charter advocates rebut in a full-page ad in the New York Times
  • Subsequent analyses(Lubienski & Lubienski, 2006; USDOE, 2004) confirm many of the AFT findings and conclude that at best, charter school performance is mixed.
disagreement emerges from the debates on charter school achievement
Disagreement emerges from the debates on charter school achievement
  • No consensus on how to measure achievement:

1) Compare aggregate charter school students’ performance to traditional public school students on a given standardized assessment

2) Compare the growth of charter school students to traditional public school students

3) Compare the performance of poor students and students of color in charter schools to similar public school students in terms of achievement growth

overlooked in the morass how charter school achievement and segregation interact
Overlooked in the morass: How charter school achievement and segregation interact
  • The racial achievement gap in the public sector exists within the charter sector as well.
    • White charter school students outperform Black students by roughly 20 points in math and reading and Latino charter school 15 points (Carnoy, Jacobsen, Mishel & Rothstein 2005).
  • The charter school sector’s segregation mirrors that of the public sector’s, and in some cases, outpaces it.
    • 70% of Black charter school students attend hyper-segregated schools compared to 34% Black students in traditional public schools (Frankenberg & Lee, 2003)
race and charter school demographics
Race and charter school demographics

Charter schools serve larger shares of African American and Latino students than their respective proportions found in regular public schools. But ethnic segregation is comparatively greater charter schools. Three-fourths of all black charter school students are enrolled in 273 schools. The share of students who are African American in these schools averages 80%, compared to 54% black representation among the comparable set of regular public schools (Fuller et al., 2003, p. 3).

charter segregation and school level resources
Charter segregation and school-level resources
  • Racially segregated charter schools:
    • Fewer credentialed teachers
    • Less access to public and private resources
    • Children of color are overrepresented in schools operated by management companies which tend to be larger, and employ less-experienced teachers
a paradoxical expectation
A paradoxical expectation

Observers take as a given that charter schools serving poor children of color will lag behind traditional public schools and more elite charter schools because their students are believed to be more difficult to educate, yet also argue that choice alone will somehow close the achievement gap.

jeanne allen center for education reform
Jeanne Allen, Center for Education Reform

Certainly some of Ohio’s charter schools are not performing as well as had been hoped for when they were founded. But in many of these cases it’s because the schools have taken on the challenge of educating the difficult-to-reach children who were given up on by traditional public schools — the children who, every year, fell further and further behind and received no help; the children who, were it not for their charter school, would have dropped out or landed in jail or worse.For them, charter schools are their last best hope for receiving an education and ultimately succeeding in life.Will these students be better off if their charter schools go out of business? The answer must be a resounding no.

--November 15, 2007: Letter to the Editor, New York Times

how charter school context can inform the policy debates on achievement race and choice
How charter school context can inform the policy debates on achievement, race, and choice
  • Specifically, what charter schools that boast high student achievement:
        • Do: Instructional and Governance Practices, School Organization
        • Know: Fiscal, Political, Legal, and Educational Expertise
        • Have: Resources, Networks, University and Community Partnerships
characteristics of successful charter schools
Characteristics of “successful” charter schools
  • Small school and class sizes
  • Longer school day and year
  • Shared mission
  • Choice by students and by schools
  • Innovations in teaching, learning, and assessment
  • Parent involvement
  • Teacher quality, teacher involvement
  • Fiscal, legal, political, and pedagogical capacity
  • Resources: Public, private, and In-kind
restating the central argument
Restating the central argument

The racial achievement gap within the charter school sector, can be partially understood by intra-sector stratification and resource inequalities that mirror those in the traditional public school arena.

implications for choice research and policy
Implications for choice research and policy
  • Need for more mixed-method study to further tease out the relationship between school demographics, achievement, and school context
  • Need to focus on offering quality of choice, not quantity: Incentives for student diversity
  • Need for public deliberation about the purpose of choice if it does not produce greater achievement: to what end are we expanding choice, and what kinds of choice might get us closer to more democratic schools?
implications
Implications
  • Joining the research on charter school achievement, racial demographics and school-level processes helps to raise questions about the efficacy of NCLB’s choice provisions.
  • There is an opportunity to rethink and retool choice aimed at realizing multiple public goods. If not charters, than what?