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A new report, Searching for Excellence: A Five-City, Cross-State Comparison of Charter School Qualityby researchers at Public Impact and published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examines charter school performance in five cities, Albany, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis and finds that overall the charter sector in these cities outperformed their local district schools. They also found, though, that charter performance varied widely among schools. They found that while some charters are performing terribly, others are significantly outperforming their district peers and with similar numbers of students in poverty.

One_Million_Lives_Logo_WebAs Bryan Hassel, co-director of Public Impact, notes in response to his colleagues’ findings, the good news in the report is its finding that charter authorizers can do something to make quality rather than variability the norm. The study found that authorizers in the five cities studied could dramatically improve access to quality schools within just five years by closing their lowest performing schools and significantly expanding or replicating their most successful ones. The study found that in Cleveland, for example, “the policy of closure and aggressive replication of high-performing schools would, Public Impact estimates, result in charter schools vastly outperforming the district schools in five years. Moreover, this policy would put Cleveland’s charters on track to perform on par with the state average by year five.

In Cleveland, the policy of closure and aggressive replication of high-performing schools would, Public Impact estimates, result in charter schools vastly outperforming the district schools in five years. Moreover, this policy would put Cleveland’s charters on track to perform on par with the state average by year five.

This report’s findings provide yet more support for NACSA’s One Million Lives campaign, a multi-pronged effort to provide better schools to one million children by closing failing charter schools and opening many more great ones. While we know that many charter schools perform at the highest levels, we also know that many others perform at the lowest levels.  As Searching for Excellence reaffirms, charter school authorizers can dramatically improve quality by aggressively encouraging their highest performing schools to expand and replicate and by just as aggressively closing their lowest performers.

 

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