School Choice & Charters Report Roundup

Study Evaluates Boston’s Charter Schools

January 21, 2009 1 min read

Boston’s charter schools significantly outperformed the city’s traditional public schools in recent years, a new, in-depth report finds, while results for the city’s “pilot schools” are “less conclusive.”

In some cases, the pilot schools—public schools that are freed from some district mandates and union work rules—lost ground when compared with Boston’s regular public schools.

The study, released last month by researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, generally found “large positive effects” for charter middle and high schools on student achievement, based on a review of state test scores.

To provide a richer analysis, the researchers employed two strategies. One “observational” approach sought to control for a wide variety of student factors, from prior achievement to demographics. The other was a randomized lottery analysis, in which students who were accepted to the charter and pilot schools were compared to students who applied to the same schools but were not accepted.

“Charter schools appear to have a consistently positive impact on student achievement in all [state test] subjects in both middle school and high school,” the report concludes.

As for the pilot schools, at the high school level, the observational analysis found positive effects for students similar to those for charters, but the lottery analysis failed to confirm those effects.

In middle schools, the observational analysis suggested negative effects for pilot students compared to their traditional-school peers.

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A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Education Week

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