•  
  •  
 

Abstract

In the last few years policy makers and practitioners nationally have shown much interest in identifying, recognizing, and replicating successful charter schools, many of which are showing that they can educate low-income and otherwise at-risk students remarkably well. However past efforts to identify high performing schools have been problematic. Using these systematic, rigorous value-added methods, the authors identify 44 Open Enrollment charter schools that merit a “high-performer” rating. Nearly all of those campuses identified serve a disadvantaged student population. The article also finds that most of those high performers are highly cost-effective, earning high ratings on the cost-efficiency measures. The authors argue for more widespread use of value-added modeling in the state accountability system. The approach taken to identifying high-performers is sensible and fair, but any formulaic approach to school labels comes with some limitations.

Key Take Away Points

  • Policy makers and practitioners nationally have shown much interest in identifying, recognizing, and replicating successful charter schools.
  • Past efforts to identify high performing schools have been problematic.
  • The authors identify 44 Open Enrollment charter schools that merit a “high-performer” rating. Most of these schools serve disadvantaged student populations.
  • The authors also attempt to reduce the volatility of high-performance identifiers by using measures that employ multiple years of outcomes data.
  • The paper goes a step further than other attempts to identify successful charter schools by taking cost effectiveness into account.
  • The article also finds that most of those high performers are highly cost-effective, earning high ratings on the cost-efficiency measures.
  • The authors argue for more widespread use of value-added modeling in the state accountability system.
  • Rather than giving high performing schools a free pass to expand, states would do well to carefully review capacity of one organization to scale and consider ways to ensure more schools adopt the practices of high performing schools.
  • Charter authorizers also deserve research and policy attention.
  • Any discussion of school grading schemes or rankings is incomplete without some recognition that test scores are one (albeit an important) measure of student outcomes.

Author Biography

Robin Lake is Director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington, and is nationally recognized for her research and analysis of U.S. public school system reforms, including charter schools and charter management organizations, innovation and scale, portfolio school districts, school turnaround efforts, and performance-based accountability systems.

Lake has authored numerous studies and provided expert technical assistance reports on charter schools. She is the editor of Unique Schools Serving Unique Students: Charter Schools and Children with Special Needs (CRPE, 2010) and editor of the annual report, Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools. She co-authored, with Paul Hill, Charter Schools and Accountability in Public Education (Brookings 2002). She has provided invited testimonies to the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee as well as various state legislatures, presents regularly at conferences and summits around the United States, and serves as an advisor to various organizations, including the Journal of School Choice, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the National Charter School Resource Center.

A Response To:

Alternative Strategies for Identifying High-Performing Charter Schools in Texas by Lori L. Taylor and Paige C. Perez.