New Fordham Report on N.C. Charter Authorization and School Success

By News, Research

Do charter authorizers successfully predict which schools will flourish and which will fail? A new report from the Fordham Institute tackles that very question, evaluating North Carolina’s track record for applications filed between 2012-13 and the summer of 2017. Study authors then followed schools from one to four years, until the start of the pandemic, to see how they fared.

At the time, members of the then-Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) served as frontline reviewers, making recommendations on new charter schools to the State Board of Education (SBE). SBE then voted as the sole authorizer to approve or reject recommendations.  (Now, due to 2023 legislation, the state’s Charter Schools Review Board approves or rejects new applications and renewals. The State Board of Education serves as an appellate entity.)

During the time period researchers studied, CSAB considered 179 applications, representing four cohorts of applications. CSAB recommended 53 of those applications–around 30%–and 43 opened as schools. The State Board of Education acted in line with CSAB’s recommendations for 90% of the applications.

Here’s the application table from the study:

Source: Adam Kho, Shelby Leigh Smith, and Douglas Lee Lauen, “Do Authorizer Evaluations Predict the Success of New Charter Schools?” Fordham Institute, March 2024.

To characterize the strength of an application, researchers assessed five main application domains: mission and purposes; education plan; governance and capacity; operations; and financial plan. What did they learn? Authorizers’ views were linked to several components of charter success–but there was no surefire way to predict a winner. Specifically, schools with more support from CSAB reviewers were better prepared to launch, but not to meet enrollment goals. In addition, reviewer approval was linked to stronger math performance; the quality of applicants’ education and financial plans also impacted math performance.

Here are the more detailed report findings from Fordham:

First, schools that more reviewers voted to approve were more likely to open their doors on time but no more likely to meet their enrollment targets. In other words, there is some evidence that reviewers were able to identify applicants that had their ducks in a row (though many schools that received fewer votes from reviewers also opened on time).

Second, schools that more reviewers voted to approve performed slightly better in math but not in reading. In other words, reviewers’ collective judgment also said something about how well a new school was likely to perform academically (though again, most of the variation in new schools’ performance was not explained by reviewers’ votes).

Third, ratings for specific application domains mostly weren’t predictive of new schools’ success, but the quality of a school’s education and financial plans did predict math performance. Importantly, these domain-specific ratings were based exclusively on evaluations of schools’ written applications (unlike reviewers’ final votes, which also reflected their interviews with applicants and whatever other information was at hand).

Finally, despite the predictivity of reviewers’ votes, simulations show that raising the bar for approval would have had little effect on the success rate of new schools. For example, reducing the share of applications that were approved from 30 percent to 15 percent wouldn’t have discernibly boosted approved schools’ reading or math performance, nor would increasing the number of “yes” votes required for approval.

Researchers provide three key takeaways from the study:

  • In general, CSAB was able to differentiate between stronger and weaker applications.
  • Board members’ professional judgment is at least as important as whatever appears in a school’s written application.
  • Raising the bar for approval wouldn’t significantly improve charters’ chances of success.

Finally, researchers make several recommendations for charter authorizers, moving forward:

  • First, closely evaluate applicants’ education or financial plans.
  • Next, include “multiple data sources and perspectives” in consideration.
  • Finally, hold “approved schools accountable for results.”

Read EdNC’s coverage of the study. View the full report by clicking here or below.

New Study: Attending KIPP Charter Schools Helps Boost College Completion

By News, Research

Students who attend KIPP middle and high schools are much more likely to enroll in–and finish–college than students who don’t. Those are the exciting findings from a new Mathematica study, released earlier this month.

KIPP, an acronym for Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national nonprofit network of public charter schools in 21 states and Washington, D.C. The network consists of 275 schools, serving 120,000 mostly minority and economically disadvantaged students. In North Carolina, KIPP’s network features eight public charter schools, including several Coalition member schools.

Here’s the write-up from KIPP about the findings:

The study followed 2,066 students from ten regions who applied to join KIPP in 5th and 6th grade via an admissions lottery. These students graduated from high school in the classes of 2016, 2017, and 2019 … Researchers tracked the college enrollment and persistence patterns of all three cohorts for at least three years after high school graduation.

… The study concludes that students who persist at KIPP from middle school to high school experience a large, long-term boost in their college outcomes.

KIPP impacts and college completion

Specifically, KIPP graduates were 31% more likely to enroll in college than students who did not attend KIPP middle and high schools. Almost twice as many KIPP graduates earned a degree from a four-year college within five years, compared to non-KIPP students (39% versus 20%).  Such impacts, KIPP notes, are “large enough to close the degree completion gap for Black students and nearly close the degree completion gap for Latinx students in the United States.”

Source: “Long-Term Impacts of KIPP Middle and High Schools on College Enrollment, Persistence, and Attainment,” Mathematica, September 12, 2023.

Read the Mathematica study, KIPP’s summary, or The 74 article about the study.

New national report reveals significant learning gains for charters

By News, Research

A new national study reveals significant achievement gains for students attending public charter schools. The study, released by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), was large and comprehensive, spanning the years of 2014 to 2019. Researchers evaluated 1.85 million charter students in 29 states (along with Washington, DC and New York City), comparing them to a matched set of 1.85 million students in traditional public schools (TPS). Data covered 81% of tested students in the United States, “making it one of the largest data sets of student-level observations created to date,” according to researchers.

Charter schools advance student learning in reading and math

Researchers reported learning outcomes in terms of days of learning–gained or lost, across the academic year. Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools advanced the learning of their students by an average of 16 days in reading and 6 days in math.

“As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023,” CREDO, June 6, 2023.

Performance among charter student subgroups, types of schools

Charter schools were particularly effective in producing learning gains for Black and Hispanic students, students living in poverty, and English language learners. Researchers also identified differences in efficacy among charter schools themselves. Specifically, charter schools run by charter management organizations (CMOs) produced bigger gains than stand-alone charter schools–27 days in reading and 23 days in math.

“As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023,” CREDO, June 6, 2023.

Just 6% of charter students nationwide are enrolled in virtual charter schools, according to CREDO researchers. Unfortunately, performance for students in these charter schools did not parallel the performance of brick-and-mortar charters in the study. CREDO researchers write:

Brick-and-mortar charter school students had significantly stronger growth in reading (22 more days) and math (15 more days). Online charter school students had much weaker growth. Online charter school students grew 58 fewer days in reading and 124 fewer days in math than their TPS peers.

Findings for North Carolina charter schools

Charter schools in North Carolina produced significant learning gains for students in reading but not in math. In reading, the study found that North Carolina charter students gained 13 days–a significant gain compared to traditional public schools. In math, student performance was weaker for charter schools than for traditional public schools, although the difference was not statistically significant. See all state-level results here.

New Research Sheds Light on How Teachers Spend Their Time

By News, Research

A new national survey sheds light on how teachers spend their time, both in and out of the classroom. The survey, directed by Michael McShane of EdChoice in partnership with Hanover Research, reflects the views and experiences of 686 traditional public, charter, and private school teachers. McShane, who is the director of national research at EdChoice, wrote about the findings in Forbes yesterday.

What are some of the survey’s topline findings?

Most teachers spend a lot of time on direct instruction as well as working individually with students–or leading small groups. A range of non-teaching tasks–from professional development to meetings to test-related work– also consumes considerable time for teachers. Student discipline problems are pervasive–and often intrude on classroom teaching. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key findings.

Inside the classroom: Direct, whole-class instruction reigns supreme

  • 81% of teachers had provided direct, whole-class instruction within the past week; 44% spent at least 5 hours doing so and 24% spent over 10 hours.
  • 78% had worked with students individually; 18% had spent at least 5 hours doing so and 6% spent over 10 hours.

Source: Michael McShane, “How Do Teachers Spend Their Time?” Ed Choice

Outside the classroom: Test prep, meetings, professional development, student discipline, and more occupy teachers’ time

What about non-teaching tasks? Dealing with student discipline, attending staff meetings, engaging in professional development, and preparing for assessments are among the tasks requiring considerable amounts of teachers’ time.

Source: “How Do Teachers Spend Their Time?”

Student discipline often intrudes on classroom teaching time

Many teachers report having to deal with student disciplinary issues. In fact, in terms of classroom interruptions, student disciplinary problems topped the list.

Source: “How Do Teachers Spend Their Time?”

McShane did not find significant differences, by school sector, in teachers’ allocations of work time outside the classroom. However, he did find meaningful differences within the overall population of teachers. Here’s what he wrote in Forbes:

When I asked a question about how much time teachers spend working outside of school hours, the answers were similar from public, private, and charter school teachers. But looking within just the public school sector we see a spread of 8% of teachers spending less than an hour per week and 7% spending more than 10. Those are serious difference in teachers’ experiences that could be happening within the same school district or even building.

Find the full study write-up here.

How the pandemic is impacting K-12 enrollment

By COVID-19, Research

It’s obvious the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped K-12 enrollment. But how? Emerging data show impacts for North Carolina, and in some surprising ways.

A new brief from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC), by Sarah Crittenden Fuller and Kevin Bastian, shows traditional public schools have been hardest-hit. Other sectors, including charter schools and home schools, experienced growth between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020. Some key findings:

  • Traditional public school enrollment dropped by 2.5%, or around 35,000 students.
  • Charter school enrollment increased by 9%, or almost 10,000 students.
  • Home school enrollment grew by nearly 19,000 students.

Enrollment declines were highest in kindergarten. Urban school districts lost more students, as did areas with more affluent and white students. Schools with higher report card grades also experienced larger enrollment declines.

Here’s a deeper dive from the EPIC authors, about charters specifically:

For existing charter schools and grades, enrollment changes were relatively constant (between 2.5 and 3.3 percent) for the previous school years but increased to 4.8 percent for 2020–21. These data reveal that increases in charter school enrollment are due to both increased enrollment in existing charter schools/grades and the opening of new charter schools.

Findings on charter enrollments affirm data just out from the state’s draft annual charter school report. That report shows charter enrollment increased from 117,000 students in 2019-20 to over 126,000 students in 2020-21. Charters experienced enrollment growth at every grade level. An additional 76,000 students are on charter waitlists.

Interested in percent enrollment changes over time? This screenshot from the EPIC report captures shifts by K-12 sector:

Read an EdNC perspective from the EPIC report authors here.

More school choice, including charters, is linked with better performance

By News, Research

States with abundant, accessible school choice programs boast higher student performance. That’s the key finding of a new University of Arkansas study from researchers Patrick Wolf, Jay Greene, Matthew Ladner, and James Paul.

Specifically, the study evaluated states’ levels of education freedom, along with student performance on NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP tests students in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.

The report authors write:

We find that higher levels of education freedom are significantly associated with higher NAEP achievement levels and higher NAEP achievement gains in all our statistical models.

To measure choice, researchers evaluated private, charter, homeschool, and public school choice programs in each of the 50 states. For instance, they looked at the proportion of all K-12 students involved in each kind of program. They also considered states’ charter and homeschool laws.

Then, they created a 2021 Education Freedom Index, building on an earlier index created in 2000. Compared to other states, North Carolina ranked 38th in education freedom in 2000 and 31st in 2021.

In overall accessibility of charter schools, NC ranked 20th. Here’s a screenshot–but see page 11 of the report for the full ranking.


The authors conclude:

The evidence gathered here indicates that increased family options in K-12 education can be useful in spurring broad improvements in student learning along with being desirable in their own right.

Read NC Senate Leader Phil Berger’s release about the study here.

New research shows charters positively impact district funds

By Research

Charter opponents often claim that public charter schools “drain” funds from traditional district schools. But is this really true?

A new report out today from the Fordham Institute, Robbers or Victims? Charter Schools and District Finances, provides real answers. It serves as a powerful–and evidence-based–rebuttal of opponents’ claims. Charters generally do not drain funds from districts, according to report author Mark Weber of New Jersey Policy Perspective. In fact, in quite a few states, the local districts in which charters are situated actually benefit.

Here’s the big finding, according to Fordham:

“In most states, charter schools are boosting host districts’ total revenue and spending per pupil.”

The study, which evaluated 17 years of data (between 2000 and 2017), assessed 21 states. In 15 of these states, including North Carolina, “A greater independent charter market share was associated with a statistically significant increase in host districts’ total revenue per student.”

See a key graphic from the report here:

Read more here.