Mich. Charter Schools Scoring Lower

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Students in Michigan's regular public schools are generally outperforming their charter school peers on state achievement tests of basic academic subjects, according to a study released this month.

Looking at the past five years of state testing data from 171 charter schools, researchers with Western Michigan University's Evaluation Center found that students at those largely independent public schools trailed their regular public school peers in absolute passing rates in all four subjects covered by the exams: reading, writing, mathematics, and science. Charter schools also generally showed less improvement in test scores over time when compared with students in their host districts.

For More Information

"An Evaluation of the Michigan Charter School Initiative: Performance, Accountability, and Impact" is available online at www.wmich.edu/evalctr/char ter/michigan.

"We didn't see charters gaining on host districts," said Gary Miron, a co-author of the study. "Charter schools have diverse missions, but student achievement has to be part of that."

The report, which is dated July 2000 but was not released until this month, is the second of two evaluations of charter schools commissioned last year by the Michigan Department of Education.

The first study, which examined 55 charter schools, was conducted by Public Sector Consultants Inc. and Maximus Inc., and released in February 1999. The authors reported similar findings on overall passing rates, but found the rate of improvement in test scores was greater for students at charter schools than at comparable public schools.

More Communication

In addition to examining student achievement, the new study found some evidence that charter schools (called "public academies" in Michigan) are forcing the state's regular public schools to offer more services and better communicate with students and their families.

Dan Quisenberry, the president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies in Lansing, expressed reservations about the authors' research methods regarding student achievement.

"It doesn't look like they went in and [broke down] the numbers," he said. "Are we seeing changes in students just walking in the door [of a charter school] that differ from those who have been there for a while? Depending on what students we're looking at, the impact of charter schools will be quite different."

Mr. Miron agreed the state testing data had limitations, but said most charter schools refused to provide more detailed information.

Vol. 20, Issue 11, Page 8

Published in Print: November 15, 2000, as Mich. Charter Schools Scoring Lower
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