Achievement and Attainment in Chicago Charter Schools

Kevin Booker, Brian Gill, Ron Zimmer, Tim R. Sass
RAND Corporation
May 2008

Another study of charter schools, another call for cautious optimism. This RAND analysis examines three components of charter schooling in Chicago. First, it looks at whether Windy City charters "cream" the best and brightest from the potential pool of pupils and whether they exacerbate or ameliorate racial stratification in the district overall. The research team found no statistically significant evidence of either creaming or worsened stratification. Next, it appraises student achievement in grades three through eight, finding that, overall, charters had no significant effect on math scores and a slightly negative impact on reading scores. Broken down by race, charters had a positive impact on the math achievement of black students but negative impacts on Asian, Hispanic, and white students in both math and reading. The authors claim, however, that the effects are all quite small, and that "on average, charters are doing about as well as district-operated CPS schools in raising student achievement." Finally, analysts looked for the impact of charter high schools on graduation, college entry, and ACT scores. They started with a group of middle school charter pupils, then compared those who went on to traditional high schools to those who attended 7-12, 6-12, or k-12 charter schools. They found that students at the charter high schools could expect a half-point jump on their ACT score, a 7 percent increase in their chances of graduating, and an 11 percent increase in their odds of enrolling in college. The authors are careful to note, however, that these positive effects could somehow be attributable to "the unconventional grade configurations" of the expanded-grade charter schools and (of course) call for further research on the issue. Read the full report here.

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