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Volume 20, Number 6
November/December 2004

Telling Tales Out of Charter School

What educators and policymakers can learn from the successes and failures of charters


Most followers of education reform can remember their typically quiet summers being interrupted last August by a front-page story in the New York Times. The story suggested that charter schools, heralded by many as havens of free choice and innovative practice, might actually be doing worse than traditionally organized public schools. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) analysis found that fourth-grade students in charter schools performed about half a grade behind those in regular public schools, and that these differences held true even for low-income students and students in central cities. The study provoked a rash of point/counterpoint exchanges among charter school advocates and opponents. Yet, according to Gary J. Miron, principal research associate for the Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University, looking at the average performance of charter schools and their students tells only a small part of the story.

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For Further Information

For Further Information

R. Bifulco and H.F. Ladd. "The Impacts of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: Evidence from North Carolina." Working Papers Series SAN 04-01. Durham, NC: Duke University, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, August 2004.

K. Bulkley and J. Fisler. "A Decade of Charter Schools: From Theory to Practice." CPRE Policy Briefs, RB-35. Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, April 2002.

C.M. Hoxby. "A Straightforward Comparison of Charter Schools and Regular Public Schools in the United States." Cambridge, MA: Harvard University and National Bureau of Economic Research, September 2004.

T. Loveless. "The Brown Center Report on American Education, 2003: How Well Are American Students Learning?" Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2003.

G. Miron and J. Horn. "Evaluation of Connecticut Charter Schools and the Charter School Initiative: Final Report." Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, The Evaluation Center, September 2002.

F.H. Nelson, B. Rosenberg, and N. Van Meter. "Charter School Achievement on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress." Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers, August 2004.