SEII evidence looms large in the MA charter debate

Boston Globe; March 16, 2016

A recent fea­ture in the Boston Globe, “Charters are con­tentious in cities. Should they be put to statewide vote?,” fea­tures SEII research.


There’s now a fair bit of evi­dence that well-designed char­ter schools can out­per­form their pub­lic school coun­ter­parts — and that Boston’s char­ters are among the best in the country.


Comparing char­ter schools and tra­di­tion­al pub­lic schools is tricky busi­ness. You can’t just look at the test scores and see who does bet­ter, because they serve dif­fer­ent kinds of kids. Among oth­er things, char­ter schools tend to have few­er English lan­guage learn­ers, as well as few­er chil­dren with seri­ous disabilities.


But even when you cor­rect for these kinds of dif­fer­ences, and com­pare iden­ti­cal or near­ly iden­ti­cal cohorts, the kids in Boston’s char­ter schools seem to do bet­ter on tests and oth­er mea­sures of aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess. As to why this might be, there are as many ques­tions as answers. Is it the extra class time? Or per­haps the com­mon­ly used, no-excus­es approach to edu­ca­tion? And how much depends on the fact that some char­ters seem to push out dis­rup­tive kids — as hap­pened in one promi­nent New York scan­dal involv­ing a “got to go” list?


Despite these lin­ger­ing ques­tions, the research con­sen­sus has grown stronger in recent years: Urban char­ter schools do seem to help stu­dents — and it’s the once-strug­gling stu­dents who enjoy the biggest gains.