School Choice & Charters Report Roundup

Scores Found to Rise Faster in Los Angeles Charters

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 17, 2008 2 min read
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“Charter School Performance in Los Angeles Unified School District: A District and Neighborhood Matched Comparison Analysis”

Charter schools in Los Angeles are generally producing stronger academic growth than traditional public schools in the city, according to a report released last week by a charter school advocacy organization.

In its analysis, the California Charter School Association compared one year of growth in state test scores in each Los Angeles charter school with that in three regular public schools run by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The comparison schools were located within a five-mile radius of the charters and shared similar racial and socioeconomic demographics. In several cases, the traditional schools had much larger enrollments, especially at the high school level.

The association’s study found that 62.8 percent of charters in the district demonstrated more growth in state test scores between 2006 and 2007 than their three most similarly matched regular schools. It also found that charters outperformed traditional schools in the middle grades and were better at educating African-American students at all grade levels.

Charters didn’t always have the edge, according to the study. While they did somewhat better at educating other disadvantaged groups such as Latinos, low-income children, and English-language learners in the middle and high school grades, regular Los Angeles Unified schools produced stronger results at the elementary level for those same disadvantaged groups.

The association used only one year’s worth of academic growth data as a way to keep the analysis a simple one that parents and other members of the public could understand.

“A multiyear analysis is much more complex,” said Aisha N. Toney, a senior data analyst for the charter school association and the report’s lead author.

Mature charters—those that have been operating at least six years and have gone through California’s charter-renewal process—are turning out significantly more robust academic performance than their younger peers, a finding that advocates said points to the need to refrain from judging newer charters too harshly.

Los Angeles is now home to more charters than any other city, with 125 of the independent public schools serving roughly 40,000 students. Los Angeles Unified has 708,000 students and is the second-largest school district in the nation.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 18, 2008 edition of Education Week

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