Kids Do Well in Charter Schools: But Administration Is `Underdeveloped'
Innerst, Carol, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Early evidence suggests that student achievement improves in charter schools compared with regular public schools, but accountability systems are "underdeveloped," according to a newly released report on the start-up problems and impact of charter schools.
So far, only Massachusetts has attempted to assess charter school results on a statewide basis, according to the six-part Hudson Institute study.
"Over eight months, some students attained 1.7 years' growth on standardized achievement tests," said Bruno V. Manno, senior fellow at Hudson and one of the principal investigators who studied charter schools over two years for the "Charter Schools in Action" report.
"At other places, things were not that good," he added.
Calling the early accountability results "more suggestive than authoritative," the report says that at six of the eight Massachusetts charter schools where students have been tested, academic gains were greater than is typically found in regular public schools. Two cases were inconclusive.
With a statewide assessment program under development, Massachusetts during the 1996-97 school year required that third graders in both conventional and charter schools take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and 10th graders take the Iowa Test of Educational Development.
California, on the other hand, has approved a list of more than 400 off-the-shelf tests from which districts and charter schools can choose. But comparisons between charter and conventional district schools are impossible unless charter schools and the district office agree on which test will be taken.
Also, the prospect of voluntary national tests could pose a dilemma for charter schools with idiosyncratic goals and curricula, Mr. Manno observed.
"Some state laws require students in charter schools to take state tests," he said. …