Charter School Authorizers and Student Achievement

This working paper from the Center on Reinventing
Public Education – as part of its National Charter School Research Project –
examines the impact of charter school authorizers on student achievement. The
paper focuses on Ohio, a state that allows a wide variety of entities – public
school districts, educational service centers, 13 state universities and
501(c)(3) organizations that meet Ohio Department of Education (ODE) criteria –
to authorize (aka, sponsor) charter schools.

collected longitudinally linked student-level data that spanned from 2004-05
through 2007-08 from ODE. The data were for elementary and middle grades only,
and virtual/online charter schools (aka e-schools) were excluded from the
study. The report found that when it comes 
to student achievement in both reading and math, charter schools that
were originally authorized by nonprofits, on average, produced the least gains
in student achievement, while district-authorized charters had the largest
gains (though statistically insignificant). ESC-authorized and state-authorized
charters were “statistically indistinguishable” from other charters in both

The authors
note that these findings may reflect Ohio’s ongoing struggle with how to grow
and regulate the charter sector, with choice proponents often wishing to expand
school choice for the sake of choice (with success defined by the diversity and
number of options), and others (including Fordham) cautioning that choice must
come with quality controls and a laser focus on performance. The report
concludes – and we agree – that the structure of the authorizing entity is not
the issue. Regardless of entity type, the key issue is whether the entity is
effective at the work of charter school authorizing itself.


Charter School Authorizers and Student

Center on Reinventing Public
Ron Zimmer, Brian Gill, Kaitlin
December 2010