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Do Charter Schools Really Improve Student Achievement?

Students work on math problems. (WTIU/WFIU)

Students work on math problems. (WTIU/WFIU)

A major argument in favor of charter schools is improved student achievement, but a recent study out of Indiana University says transfer students have smaller academic gains in the first two years at a new charter school, compared to unmoved, public school peers.

IU education professor Hardy Murphy co-authored the study.

“The real takeaway is that charter schools are not a silver bullet. In some ways, charter schools still are faced with the same challenges and dilemmas that students face in traditional public schools,” he says.

Murphy says it was interesting to see how high turnover rates are for students leaving charter schools.

“We have to ask ourselves this question: what did they expect to find and why didn’t they have those expectations realized when they were there?” Murphy says.

The report says nearly half of students who transferred to a charter school return to a traditional public school within three years.

The research doesn’t look at charter school authorizers or why parents decide to move their kids into a charter school, but Murphy says that’s next. Ultimately, he says factors leading to a school’s success – whether public or charter – are likely the same, but the authorization process for charters is a key issue to look further into.

A follow up report focused on larger student achievement patterns in charters, comes out next month.

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