Charter School Edge

Dave Murray calls attention to an interesting comparison of charter schools and general schools. On MEAP scores African-American students in Grand Rapids charter schools performed roughly ten percent better than peers in GRPS. In other districts such as Saginaw and Detroit, the numbers were larger.In the spirit of seizing any advantage, Dan Quisenberry, president of MAPSA, offers the charter school interpretation:

“These findings are very significant, but not surprising. One of the primary missions of a charter school is to give parents a quality educational option in places where the local public schools are failing. This data shows that the mission is succeeding.”

Well, maybe.

Broadly, the results seem more likely to confirm a selection bias. That is, the performance does not seem to be so outstanding as to claim their is a programming difference. Are they teaching that much better? That 18% passing rate is nothing to sing about. That sounds like most of the problems remain more structural — tied to underlying community factors like poverty — than any sort of “special educational sauce.”

Thus, the best answer may be that we’re looking at a combination of parental engagement coupled with a school culture. What such an edge does do, is to confirm the parental decision to send the student to the charter and that likely provides a modest self-reinforcing element to the mix. Here, the scores of the Montessori program might be a better comparison, since it provides roughly the same dynamic of parental choice.

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