Charter report: Grad rates up, tests neutral

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. - Charter public school students may be more likely to graduate and attend college than students in conventional public schools, though their overall academic performance is not necessarily better, according to a newly released study by the RAND Corp., reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Michigan State University associate professor Ron Zimmer was among the lead authors of the study.

The authors examined charter schools in eight cities and states (Michigan was not among them) and concluded that charter middle school students who go on to charter high schools were 7 percent to 15 percent more likely to graduate. While charter high school students did not post better test scores, they were 8 to 10 percent more likely to attend college, according to the Inquirer. High school results were based on Florida and Chicago only because most states do not track students beyond high school, according to the Inquirer.

"These are some of the most positive results so far for charter schools," Zimmer said. "It may suggest that evaluations up to this point have not been broad enough to capture what's going on in charter schools."

In other areas, Zimmer and his colleagues reported that academic gain on average is not higher among charter students than those in traditional schools, as measured by test scores, the Inquirer reported. Also, charter schools do not lure the top students away from traditional schools; rather, students transferring to charters tend to have below-average test scores, according to the Inquirer.

Philadelphia Inquirer, "Mixed report card on charter schools," March 19, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Charter report favorable, state board wants more," Feb. 24, 2009