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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Study Finds Most Charter Schools Meet or Exceed Performance of Sending Districts

Malden - Nearly 90 percent of the state's charter schools performed the same or better on MCAS than schools in their comparison sending districts between 2001 and 2005, with just 10 percent doing worse, according to a new study analyzing charter school performance.

The study was conducted by the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment, Inc., at the request of the Department of Education. The findings are analytical in nature and do not attempt to explain the reasons for the different levels of performance.

Researchers compared MCAS results in English and math between individual charter schools and their comparison sending districts and examined student growth over time for individual students enrolled in charter schools.

"Too often the question of whether or not charter schools are successful becomes a politically-charged debate," said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. "We chose to have this analysis done to put an end to that debate once and for all. Now that the questions have been answered, our next steps will be to determine exactly what charter schools are doing differently and how their successes can benefit the traditional public schools."

The study had two phases. The first phase looked at direct comparisons of 2001 to 2005 MCAS results in English Language Arts and mathematics between individual charter schools and their comparison sending districts (CSD). The second phase used a statistical technique called hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to examine changes in individual student test scores for continuously enrolled students over time.

Phase One

In all, 52 of the state's 56 charter schools operating in 2004-2005 were included in this study. Of that group, six had more than one comparison sending district.

Major findings of the first phase of the study include:

  • When there is a statistically significant difference in MCAS performance, it is much more likely to favor the charter school.
  • In both ELA and Mathematics, at least 30 percent of the charter schools performed statistically significantly higher than their CSD in each year with the exception of 2001. In 2001, 19 percent of the charter schools performed significantly higher than their CSD in ELA and 26 percent did so in Mathematics.
  • The percentage of charter schools performing higher than their CSD each year has remained fairly constant in ELA and Mathematics, even while the number of charter schools and the number of students tested in charter schools has increased.
  • The percentage of charter schools performing lower than their CSD has declined to approximately 10 percent in Mathematics and to below 10 percent in ELA.
  • Similar patterns existed for all demographic subgroups, with the likelihood of the significant difference favoring the charter school being most prevalent for the African American, Hispanic, and Low Income subgroups.

Phase Two

In the second phase, researchers applied HLM to MCAS scaled scores for all students in the state continuously enrolled in a school district or charter school to generate growth scores for achievement across years.

In English Language Arts:

  • Statewide, for all schools and districts, average growth in MCAS scores across grades and years from 2001 to 2005 improved about 1.10 scaled score points per year.
  • Ten charter schools and no CSDs had growth scores greater than 2.1 points (or more than 1 point above the state average).
  • Six charter schools had growth scores that exceeded their CSD by 1 or more points, while six charter schools had growth scores lower than their CSD by 1 or more points.

In Mathematics:

  • Statewide, for all charter and non-charter schools, average growth in MCAS across grades and years from 2001 to 2005 was modest: 1.51 scaled score points per year.
  • Ten charter schools and one CSD had growth scores greater than 2.51 (or more than 1 point above the state average).
  • Fourteen charter schools had growth scores that exceeded their CSD by 1 or more points, while five charter schools had growth scores lower than their CSD by 1 or more points.

The Center for Assessment is an independent, non-profit organization with extensive experience in conducting statistical analyses of student performance data. The Center has previously conducted studies for over 25 states, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the US Department of Education, and other organizations.



Last Updated: August 30, 2006
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