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Commentary: A better way to compare charters, traditional schools

LA School Report | December 7, 2015



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By Roger Altman and Robert Hughes

Are the student achievement scores at charter schools too good to be true? Every year, urban school districts across the country release test scores showing dismal student proficiency in math and reading, especially for students in poverty. At the same time, parents in those same cities often hear claims by many charter schools that their students score two or three times higher than their district school counterparts. Are these results accurate?

Unfortunately, conflicting claims make it difficult for parents to get the information they need. Charter proponents point to studies like the one from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which demonstrates better performance by some urban charter students on standardized tests. Critics challenge these studies by arguing that charter schools cherry-pick students, discourage the enrollment of students with behavioral problems or disabilities, and discharge underperforming students.

Based on our experience running both district and charter schools, we believe that charters have shown real gains and can play a transformative role in educational reform. But we also think the data comparing the schools and the enrollment process are not clear enough for parents to make informed decisions.

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