What began in 1992 as an experiment to provide California parents and students with expanded school choices, has grown into a significant public school segment. California's charter schools now educate more than 250,000 of the state's students and they have a prominent place in discussions among policymakers and educators about how to improve the nation's public schools.
As pressure for improved student achievement
continues to mount, charter schools remain a high profile and sometimes
promising reform strategy. Less clear is to what extent—and
under what conditions—these public schools successfully balance the
goals of innovation and high educational standards.
This special EdSource publication looks at the performance of California charter schools and explores policy issues as well. Articles include:
- Focus on Quality: The challenges of defining, developing, and duplicating successful charter schools. When it comes to the multiple goals that policymakers have set out for charter schools, different segments of the charter school community focus on different goals. This article describes efforts to create definitions and indicators of "quality," which often center around state test scores, and the challenges to increasing the number of high-scoring charter schools.
- Vital Statistics. This article describes the growth in California's charter schools and students, and provides other data about the state's charter movement.
- Performance Update 2009. The first of two articles in this section focuses on Charters vs. Noncharters. Using several student achievement measures, our analysis controls for differences in student characteristics in comparing charter high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools with their noncharter counterparts. Spotlight on CMOs: Defining and analyzing charter management organizations (CMO) describes the lack of consensus on the definition of a CMO and analyzes test scores using both broad and narrow definitions of these organizations.
- Washington Signals Support. We look at the proposals that the Obama administration has put forward aimed at both expanding the number of charter schools and ensuring that they are, in fact, delivering high-quality education. Federal funding increases for charters are also of note.
EdSource thanks Reed Hastings for his support of our independent study and reporting on California's charter school movement.