Category Archives: Charter School


Lemovs teaching techniques influencing Charter schools but also academies here


Doug Lemov, an American teacher and the author of Teach Like A Champion: 49 techniques that put students on the path to college (2010) is having a considerable impact on some US schools in the Charter movement. Lemov is managing director of Uncommon Schools, a chain of 32 charter schools (the US equivalent of academies) operating in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. These have become the highest-performing schools in their districts, despite being located in some of the most deprived communities. Lemov’s book has become a “bible” for thousands of teachers in the US . It is also having an impact here. Ark, one of the most successful academy chains here, rather like his ideas .

Teach Like A Champion Field Guide is  a practical resource to make the 49 techniques your own. It claims to provide a detailed look at top classroom techniques used by top teachers -that work. Lemov includes  a DVD of teaching clips that illustrate what these techniques look like in practice. For each technique he  provides enough detail on  the practice  but also seeks to provide an explanation  of the rationale behind it.

The book is not just aimed as a tool for teachers. It seeks to provide  a resource to help school leaders understand the elements of effective  teaching which is vital in both observing and training their own teachers. When Lemov  refers to a  ‘technique’-what exactly  does that mean?  Here are two examples:

Technique 1: NO OPT OUT

In typical classes, when students don’t know an answer, or don’t want to try, they quickly learn the teacher will leave them alone if  they respond to a question with “I don’t know” or shrugging their shoulders. The teacher then moves on to another student. Instead,  NO OPT OUT is a useful tool to get all students to the right answer, as often as possible, even if only to repeat the correct answer.

For example, on day 1 to review you ask Charlie, “What is 3 times 8?” He mutters, “I don’t know” and looks away. Many teachers  don’t know how to respond, and students come to use “I don’t know” to avoid work all year long. Instead, at a minimum, you can turn  to another student, ask the same question, and if you get the correct answer, turn back to Charlie, “Now you tell me what is 3 times 8.”

Charlie, and all of the students, have just learned that they can’t get off the hook and must do the work in your class.  In a more rigorous form of NO OPT OUT you or another student can provide a cue. For example, in a class where a student was unable to identify the subject of the sentence, “My mother was not happy” the teacher asked another student, “When I am asking you  for the subject, what am I asking for?” The second student responded, “You are asking for who or what the sentence is about.” Then  the teacher turned to the first student and said, “When I ask for the subject, I am asking for who or what the sentence is about. What’s  the subject?” This time the student was able to respond correctly, “Mother.” The sequence began with the student unable to answer and ended up with him giving a correct answer. Note that the tone in most classrooms that use NO OPT OUT is positive and academic and using it only reinforces the teacher’s belief in students’ ability to get the right answer.


Technique 2: RIGHT IS RIGHT

Students often stop striving when they hear that their answer is “right.” However, many teachers often accept answers that are partially correct or not totally complete. They affirm these answers by repeating them and then adding information to make the answer completely correct. For example, when asked how the families in Romeo and Juliet get along a student says, “They don’t like each other.” You would hope that the teacher would ask for more elaboration, but instead, she might say, “Correct, they don’t like each  other and have been feuding for generations.” By responding in this way, the teacher is setting a low standard for correctness. The key  idea behind RIGHT IS RIGHT is that the teacher should set and defend a high standard of correctness by only naming “right” those  answers which are truly and completely right. There are four ways to use the RIGHT IS RIGHT technique.

1. Hold out for all the way. When students are close to the answer, tell them they’re almost there. While great teachers don’t confuse effort and mastery, they do use simple, positive language to appreciate what students have done and to hold them to  the expectation that they still have more to do. For example, “I like what you’ve done. Can you get us the rest of the way?”

2. Answer the question. Students learn if they don’t know an answer they can answer a different question, particularly if they  relate it to their own lives. If they can’t identify a story’s setting, for example, a student might start with, “That reminds me of  something in my neighbourhood…” Or, you ask for a definition and a student gives you an example, “Eyeball is a compound, word.” Instead, direct the student back to the question at hand, “Kim, that’s an example, I want the definition.”

3. Right answer, right time. Sometimes students get ahead of you and provide the answer when you are asking for the steps to the problem. While it may be tempting to accept this answer, if you were teaching the steps, then it is important to make sure  students have mastered those steps, “My question wasn’t about the solution. It was, what do we do next?”

4. Use technical vocabulary. Good teachers accept words students are already familiar with as right answers, “Volume is the amount of space something takes up.” Great teachers push for precise technical vocabulary, “Volume is the cubic units of  space an object occupies.” This approach strengthens a student’s vocabulary and better prepares  him/her for college.

The TES reported on 12 April that Lemov’s Uncommon Schools are often visited by Future Leaders, which is why the charity is one of the biggest promoters of US teaching methods in England. Once a year, it flies a group of UK teachers to the US to see how particular schools in some of the poorest regions of the country function. Heath Monk, chief executive of Future Leaders, says that the purpose of the US trips is more to do with school culture than pedagogy. The US as a whole, he admits, does not perform well, but there are pockets of brilliance where schools are working miracles.

“We are looking at very small subsets of very successful charter schools; schools that are achieving, by US standards, outstanding outcomes,” Monk says. “And they are doing so with some seriously challenging kids. It shows what can be achieved with an outstanding school culture, even when their pedagogy would likely be judged by Ofsted as requiring improvement.”


Balance of evidence  finds  Academies have only small beneficial effects on pupil performance


The latest research from Stephen Machin and Olma Silva from the Centre for Economic Performance asks two basic  questions – does school autonomy work? And does it offer scope to improve the lot of disadvantaged students ie those  in the lower tail of the education distribution? Their conclusion is probably not, or at least not in England . They write ‘ Whilst there is a paucity of robust and coherent evidence to draw upon, it does not seem  unreasonable to say that, on balance, the evidence that does exist at best shows only small beneficial  effects on overall pupil performance and very little consistent evidence of improvements for tail  students.’

They find little evidence that academies up to 2009, helped pupils in the bottom 10% and 20% of the ability distribution. Furthermore, they find little  evidence that late converters (2008 and 2009) had any beneficial effects on pupils of any  ability. The authors conclude their research by comparing the experience of UK academies to that of  US charter schools and Swedish free schools, and by providing some insights into the reasons  why UK academies did not serve ‘the tail’ as is the case for some US charter schools.(the implication here is that charter schools because they have a  performance contract ( ie the charter) are held more directly accountable for performance than are  academy schools)

In conclusion the authors say ‘ it may be that in the longer run the best academies will flourish and spread their  practices across the education market in a tide that lifts all boats and so raises the achievement of  pupils of all abilities. However, in order to guarantee that these more autonomous institutions can  make a difference for the tail, new ‘rules of the game’ should be designed to make sure that schools  have incentives to focus on the most disadvantaged student and, at the same time, are held  accountable for their improvements.’

School Structure, School Autonomy  and the Tail Stephen Machin and Olmo Silva-Centre for Economic Performance- March 2013

Note. The new Pupil Premium is supposed to provide an incentive for schools  to target the  most disadvantaged pupils and to close the achievement gap ,although the challenge is to use this  extra money on interventions that work. One reliable source tells me that technology companies are seeking to persuade schools that the Pupil Premium is best invested in new computers and  education software, although I can find no evidence to  back the  claim that computers improve the performance of the most disadvantaged pupils.Tackling the long tail of underachievers  remains the biggest challenge  in education. One hopes and trusts that Ofsted will  keep a close eye on how schools  use these  extra funds.



Twigg warms to Charter chain in USA because of its collaborative approach


The Green Dot  Charter schools  network operates 18 schools in some of the toughest areas of Los Angeles. Green Dot operates a mix of independent charter and turnaround schools, serving more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles County’s highest need areas. Its student body is statistically identical to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s, mirroring the amount of students that are English language learners, who receive free or reduced lunches, and are students with special needs.

The network has caught the eye of Stephen Twigg MP, the shadow education secretary, (speech to ACSL-16 March). It is unusual for a Labour spokesmen to highlight the performance of charter schools in the USA, as they are private operators, both for profit and not for profit, running municipal schools under a contract (or charter). That said ,  some Democrats in the States , including the President, much admire charters  for the leg up they can give to the most disadvantaged pupils,  in the poorest areas.   What  resonates with Twigg is the fact that  Green Dot’s teachers and management worked  closely with the California Teachers Association (ie a Union) to develop a contract for its teaching staff that is  at one with the mission of Green Dot and  also supports a sympathetic  professional environment for teachers. This is all about collaboration, a theme Twigg explored in his  ACSL  speech . He contends that only through collaboration ,within and between schools, can schools and the system  improve. He criticises the current government for creating   what he sees as an  ‘atomised ‘system, although, arguably, he helped lay the foundations of this system , when he was  in the last government.  Green Dot also worked with Randi Weingarten, now president of AFT, and the United Federation of Teachers to create the employment contract for Green Dot New York Charter School.  So here is evidence of collaboration in this case  not just between schools, but  between teachers, students and  parents, including on curriculum innovation. And, unlike some Charter schools, unions are recognised. Research conducted by UCLA showed students significantly increased their test scores and took more challenging subjects. Green Dot Public Schools averaged a 20-point increase on the Academic Performance Index scores released by the California Department of Education, with two of its schools exceeding the state’s API goal of 800 for the first time. The performance marked the fourth straight year of gains across Green Dot’s 18 schools.


In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. In 2013- 41 states and the District of Columbia had charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600  charter schools.


Strong statistically significant results for KIPP students that are better than their peers


As of the 2012–2013 school year, 125 KIPP schools are in operation in 20 different states and the District of Columbia (DC). Ultimately, KIPP’s goal is to prepare students to enrol and succeed in college.

KIPPs approach is different. It is particularly keen on  structured,  ‘meaningful’  approaches to character development in its schools This is rooted in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman (Universityof Pennsylvania) and  Dr. Chris Peterson (University of Michigan) that identifies 24 character strengths as leading to engaged, meaningful, and purposeful lives. Its not just about academic attainment. Resilience  and character matter even more, if students are to succeed in education and life.

There is a research partnership between KIPP NYC and Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), KIPP which informs the focus on seven highly predictive strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. They have integrated their own experiences as teachers with the research of Seligman, Peterson, and Duckworth to create a road map for the development of each strength.  So KIPP schools seek to see how they  can integrate a more structured and measurable approach to character development.

Prior research has suggested that KIPP schools have positive impacts on student achievement, but most of the studies have included only a few KIPP schools or have had methodological limitations.

This is the second report of a national evaluation of KIPP middle schools being conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The evaluation uses ‘experimental and quasi-experimental methods to  produce rigorous and comprehensive evidence on the effects of KIPP middle schools across the  country. The study’s first report, released in 2010, described strong positive achievement impacts in maths and reading for the 22 KIPP middle schools for which data were available at the time.  This most recent  study, conducted by Mathematica,  is  the most rigorous research yet on KIPP schools  and  shows that the Knowledge Is Power Program, provides a significant learning boost to middle school students in multiple subjects. It also found that while KIPP serves more low-income students than public school peers, it serves fewer special education students and English language learners. The report states ‘The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial. KIPP impact estimates are consistently positive across the four academic subjects examined, in each of the first four years after enrolment in a KIPP school, and  for all measurable student subgroups’.   Three years after students enroll in KIPP schools, they had 11 more months of maths knowledge than their peers, according to the study. The research showed KIPP students had eight more months of reading knowledge, 14 more months of science knowledge, and 11 more months of social studies knowledge.  Charter schools are publicly funded, but can be privately run. KIPP is one of the best known chains. KIPP schools often feature a longer school day, carefully selected teachers, a strict discipline code, parental contract, and teachers available to parents after school hours.  The Mathematica study accounted for the common critique that KIPP’s results are skewed because the school attracts the kids of highly-motivated parents, said Philip Gleason, who directed the research. In 13 of the 43 schools Mathematica investigated, the firm compared KIPP students with children who entered the KIPP lottery, but did not receive slots in KIPP schools. The researchers said the positive results held steady for the KIPP students. The study did find though that KIPP’s ‘behavioural’ modifications contributed to academic performance. KIPP schools that reported a “comprehensive” approach toward behaviour saw greater positive effects than schools that did not.  But ‘KIPP has no statistically significant effect on a variety of measures of student attitudes  that may be related to long-run academic success. The estimated KIPP impacts on  indices of student-reported self-control, academic self-concept, school engagement,  effort/persistence in school, and educational aspirations are not statistically significant.’  KIPP schools that had a longer than average school day had smaller positive effects on student performance. The report says this might be because the KIPP schools with longer days than others often focused their extended hours on non-academic areas.  KIPP students do from 35 minutes to 53 minutes more nightly homework than their peers, yet reported they were more satisfied with school than peers, according to the study.

KIPP Middle Schools:  Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes  Final Report- February 27, 2013- Christina Clark Tuttle Brian Gill Philip Gleason Virginia Knechtel Ira Nichols-Barrer Alexandra Resch


Charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of public education, taking root in most U.S. states, thanks to a big push by the education reform lobby and the federal government’s  ‘Race to the Top’ competition.  One of the defining features of  Charter schools is that they operate on the basis of a  ‘charter’, i.e. a performance contract granted for three to five years, defining the school’s mission and goals,  as well as the type of students it aims to attract. Charter schools are then held accountable to their  sponsor (for example a local school board), which assesses whether these stated aims have been  achieved and – if not – eventually revokes the charter.



‘How children Succeed’-its not just about cognitive skills

Character is what leads to lasting success


If you do well in exams and pass the tests you are set to succeed in life. Not necessarily. Until recently, most economists and psychologists believed that the most important factor in a child’s success was his or her IQ. This notion is behind the obsession with test scores. Tests, of course, are important, but there is much in a child’s education and learning  that cannot be reliably tested.  It is also the case that confidence in  the testing regime, certainly in England,  is at an all time low.And an individual’s non-cognitive abilities are now assuming  much  greater importance to employers who need them in the workplace

Education policymakers here and in the States have been driven by the need to promote more rigour and robustness in academic standards. Test-based accountability measures have been enacted with the intention of holding schools accountable for reaching these higher standards, measuring pupils cognitive skills. Its nearly  all about content knowledge and testable academic skills.  But in How Children Succeed,  Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most for students have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. Economists call these non-cognitive skills. Psychologists call them personality traits. Neuroscientists sometimes use the term ‘ executive functions’. The rest of us often sum them up with the word  ‘character’. Tough offers the revolutionary concept that character, unlike DNA, is not fixed or completely innate in a person. It is, in a word that recurs throughout How Children Succeed, malleable.

This is what Tough says’ … the conventional wisdom is that the big problem for low-income kids is that they don’t get enough cognitive stimulation early on. In fact, what seems to have more of an effect is the chaotic environments that many low-income kids grow up in and the often stressful relationships they have with the adults around them. That makes a huge difference in how children’s brains develop, and scientists are now able to trace a direct route from those early negative experiences to later problems in school, health, and behaviour. The problem is that science isn’t yet reflected in the way we run our schools and operate our social safety net. And that’s a big part of why so many low-income kids don’t do well in school. We now know better than ever what kind of help they need to succeed in school. But very few schools are equipped to deliver that help.’

Tough talked about character in a recent interview, citing the KIPP chain of not for profit  charter schools and its dedicated founder, David Levin. KIPP schools produce report cards for academic performance but also  character assessment. “Dave is doing new and important work,” Tough said, adding:  ‘He has a new vision for character and it’s quite scientific in that he’s trying to figure out which character strengths make a difference in a kid’s success. And at the root of his research and thinking is the assertion that character is… a set of qualities that [enables] kids to change themselves and qualities that parents and teachers can instil.’  The schools Tough  writes about in “How Children Succeed” that are collaborating on a character initiative are those KIPP charter schools in New York City, which serve a mostly low-income student population, and Riverdale Country School, a private school in the Bronx that serves a mostly high-income student population. Together, they have come up with a list of seven character strengths they are trying to encourage in their students. KIPP had discovered that  their most successful students were not necessarily those that came top in tests but those, instead,  that were the most resilient .

Tough points out that protective parents, with the best of motives, might well be harming the longer term prospects for their children: ‘By not giving them the chance to learn to manage adversity, to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.’

In the words of a recent academic study  (see below) ‘… there is still much to be learned about how to leverage  non-cognitive factors to transform educational practice from its current focus on content knowledge and  testable academic skills to the broader development of  adolescents as learners.’

The Consortium on Chicago Schools Research report titled “Teaching Adolescents to Become Learners: The Role of Non-cognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review.’ June 2012


For profit advocates hit back


The IEA, the right wing think tank that promotes private enterprise, the free market and the profit motive, has a bright young Swedish academic on its staff

Gabriel Sahlgren is busy promoting profitmaking in the state sector. He is something of an expert, unsurprisingly, on the Swedish Free school model. Many Swedes are perplexed about how heated and polarised the debate is here on their school system. They are altogether more sanguine it seems, than we are , about the existence of  profitmaking schools within their  system.

Research on Swedens Free schools can be found to support both both the pro and anti  free school lobbies. Fertile ground, indeed, for cherry picking.

Sahlgren says that the best papers on the Swedish voucher reforms have thus far displayed only short-term gains from these reforms. Until now, that is.  In Sahlgrens view Böhlmark and Lindahl,  are the authors of the most convincing  recent research.

Their results,  according to Sahlgren,  show the impact of free school competition on pupils in both free and municipal schools, indicating that a 10 percentage-point increase in the share of 9th-grade pupils attending free schools in the municipality generates (1) about a 2 percentile rank point better test score in mathematics and English; (2) a 2 percentile rank point better performance in mathematics and English in the first year of upper-secondary school; (3) a 2 percentage point increase in the share who attend university; and (4) four more weeks of schooling on average.

Indeed, this is the first paper that finds long-term positive effects from a national voucher programme, while also presenting results indicating that grade inflation does not bias their findings.

Sahlgen writes ‘Comparing the results in ninth grade with the authors’ earlier results, we see that the impact is about twice as strong. It should also be noted that they only estimate the impact of ninth-grade shares of free schools pupils. In prior papers, they found that using the overall share of free schools as a measure of competition made the coefficient double in size (to about the same effect as in this paper). While it is questionable whether the overall share of free school pupils induces competitive incentives – at least immediately – this indicates that the above-cited estimates are lower bound.’

This is also the first paper – according to Sahlgren – that separates the general-equilibrium impact of for-profit and non-profit competition on achievement. They find no significant differences. This is strong evidence that both for-profit and non-profit competition is equally good at raising achievement. The key difference is the ability of for-profit actors to mobilise capital as well as scale up – thus providing more competition across the board. Michael Gove ,Sahlgren says, should sit up and pay attention.Gove has  so  far resisted pressure from the IEA, Reform and Policy Exchange think tanks to introduce profitmaking schools into the state sector even though  many believe that it would breathe much needed life into the faltering Free school programme here (faltering mainly  due to a lack of capital and  practical problems in finding sites for new schools)

It is important to note, says Sahlgren, ‘ that about 70-80% of the positive impact does not stem from the fact that free schools are better than municipal schools – but rather that competition forces municipal schools to improve. It also turns out that the effects are not significant until after about one decade after the reform. The authors argue that this is because free schools were a relatively marginal phenomenon until the early 2000s. However, it is also important to point out that the pupil population kept growing until 2003, so whatever competitive incentives increased for municipal schools remained marginal. The pupil population began decreasing in 2003, which coincides with the stronger increase in the free school share and also achievement. It is thus not surprising that it took about ten years before competition effects kicked in.’

This, concludes Sahlgren, ‘clearly demonstrates that it takes time before competitive incentives have an impact – which has implications for how we evaluate other school choice programmes. Moreover, it indicates that competition is the key mechanism behind producing better outcomes, not the fact that some schools are better than others. It also shows that for-profit schools are just as good as non-profit schools when it comes to raising the overall attainment levels in a voucher system.’

Independent Schools and Long-Run Educational  Outcomes: Evidence from Sweden’s Large Scale ; Voucher Reform IZA DP No. 6683

June 2012; Anders Böhlmark  Mikael Lindahl

Acknowledgements to the IEA





Michelle Rhee in London

Policy Exchange talk

Gove praises her moral leadership


Michelle Rhee was Chancellor of Washington DC schools for three tumultuous years 2007-2010. She visited London this week to talk about education reforms in the USA.

Her main message-put the interests of children first by ensuring there is  a high-quality teacher in front of every classroom every day.

When she became the chancellor of schools in 2007, a mere 8 per cent of eighth-grade students were doing maths at their proper grade level, yet 98 per cent of teachers got satisfactory evaluations. Rhee says ‘our kids were failing, we were saying, “Well done, good job” to the adults educating them.’

Shortly after taking office she was told that DC spent more per student than virtually every other district, yet consistently delivered some of the worst results.  Around $1 billion was spent in D.C, where $90 million was spent in this geographically small district just on busing – this amounted to a staggering $18,000 per student.  As if this wasn’t bad enough the D.C. school district was often sued for failure to make the mandatory accommodations required by law for special needs students, which ultimately required the district to pay for the placement by the district of these students in private schools.  Many of these private school were not even in DC, but in neighbouring states –Maryland, Virginia etc. Schools don’t need more money, Rhee says, they need to be held accountable for how they spend  the money  they have.  The per capita student  spend in DC is  in fact comparatively good.  She says that it is the interests of children that must drive the system. Too often it is the interests of adults and the vested interests they represent that are the driver. These interests benefit from a dysfunctional system because they are not held to account. How teachers performed in DC classrooms   just  didn’t matter.

Introducing Rhee at the think tank Policy Exchange, one of the most influential think tanks, on 26 June, the Secretary of State for Education , Michael Gove,  said that she had the clear  moral leadership to overcome the sheer power of vested interests and had influenced reform throughout the country.

Its often forgotten that Rhee is a Democrat. Democrats tend to be sensitive to lobbying by organised labour. But she realised that she had to get rid of underperforming officials and teachers quickly , which was  never going to be backed by unions.  She closed  two dozen schools, sacked over 1,000 educators, and fired two thirds (36) of the Principals.  She also got rid of security of tenure. Whether teachers were good or bad didn’t seem to matter before she took over.  If teaching cuts were made it was always last in, first out, so the longest servers had security of tenure, regardless of their   performance. But with a new evaluation system in place you could now identify the best and worst teachers. (rated in four categories)

Rhees approach  was  that that you must do for other children want you would want done for your own  children  (its  notable how few local leaders sent their children to DC schools-unlike Rhee).And you must seek to remove partisan politics from the equation and do whatever is necessary  and right for children. Their interests must always guide reform. ( which is why she supports a voucher scheme for the most disadvantaged students against the wishes of many local democrat politicians)

Rhee wanted all teachers to be evaluated in large measure by how much they can boost their students’ scores on standardized tests. Scores are fed into a complex formula that rates how much “value” a teacher has added to each student over the year.  Socio-economic factors are also taken into account and teachers are also observed at least five times in a year in the classroom. Some account is also taken of what teachers contribute to the school outside the classroom.  Rhee says teachers who consistently don’t add value should be fired; those who do well should be rewarded with six-figure salaries. Under her system an excellent teacher could be awarded twice the salary they had in the old system in which 98% of teachers were rated good. Rhee has acknowledged the value-added formulas aren’t perfect, but says they’re the only objective way to assess and compare teacher performance. “That’s the best measure we have,” Rhee  has said.

Rhee reminded the audience at Policy Exchange of Warren Buffets solution for improving  education. Abolish private education and introduce a lottery system for entry to state schools.

Rhee resigned in the autumn  of 2010 after Mayor  Adrian  Fenty ,who had  recruited her, lost an election . It is arguable that Unions were sufficiently angry with Rhee that they campaigned to defeat him. Fenty  had no regrets though  because the reforms worked and didn’t blame Rhee for his defeat.

Rhee has set up StudentsFirst a network of interlocking lobbying groups, advocacy organizations and political action committees which  now has over a million supporters. Launched on the Oprah Winfrey show, its main purpose is to spread and sustain  education reform throughout the States ,putting the needs of students first.


Rhee says that test results show D.C. students greatly improved in maths and reading from 2007 to 2009. DC  became the only major city system to see double-digit growth in both their state reading and state maths scores in the seventh, eighth and tenth grades over three years.In 2009, D.C. outpaced the nation in gains. The District of Columbia was the only jurisdiction in the country to see gains in every subgroup. The graduation rate rose, and after steep declines, enrollment rose for the first time in forty years.



Mixed results but KIPP schools spend substantially more per pupil than district schools in the same city and serving similar populations


Policymakers have long pursued more cost effective, scalable alternatives for delivering elementary and secondary education. The elusive goal is identifying how to reform educational systems so that children will consistently achieve more academically—at a lesser cost. According to a new report  ‘ A frequently heard reform claim of this sort is that charter schools deliver higher performance at a lower cost. While the test score side of this question has been addressed by a great number of studies (with generally mixed findings), the cost side of the question has received far less attention.’

The description of the Research by Bruce D. Baker, Ken Libby,  and Kathryn Wiley is as follows:

‘This study evaluates the cost claim by comparing the per-pupil spending of charter schools operated by major charter management organizations (CMOs) in New York City, Texas and Ohio with district schools. In each context, we assemble three-year panel data sets including information on school level spending per pupil, school size, grade ranges and student populations served for both charter schools and district schools. For charter schools we use both government (and authorizer) reports of spending, and spending as reported on IRS non-profit financial filings (IRS 990).  We compare the spending of charters to that of district schools of similar size, serving the same grade levels and similar student populations. Overall, charter spending variation is large as is the spending of traditional public schools. Comparative spending between the two sectors is mixed, with many high profile charter network schools outspending similar district schools in New York City and Texas, but other charter network schools spending less than similar district schools, particularly in Ohio.  We find that in New York City, KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools charter schools spend substantially more ($2,000 to $4,300 per pupil) than similar district schools. Given that the average spending per pupil was around $12,000 to $14,000 citywide, a nearly $4,000 difference in spending amounts to an increase of some 30%. In Ohio, charters across the board spend less than district schools in the same city. And in Texas, some charter chains such as KIPP spend substantially more per pupil than district schools in the same city and serving similar populations, around 30 to 50% more in some cities (and at the middle school level) based on state reported current expenditures, and 50 to 100% more based on IRS filings. Even in New York where we have the highest degree of confidence in the match between our IRS data and Annual Financial Report Data, we remain unconvinced that we are accounting fully for all charter school expenditures.’

Spending by the major Charter Organisations- Comparing Charter School and Local Public District Financial Resources  New York, Ohio and Texas-   Bruce D. Baker, Rutgers University Ken Libby and Kathryn Wiley University of Colorado; May 2012; National Education Policy Center



High Expectations for student behaviour and Intensive teacher coaching and monitoring


The National Study of CMO Effectiveness is a four-year study designed to assess the impact of CMOs on student achievement and to identify CMO structures and practices that are most effective in raising achievement. Earlier reports from the study documented substantial variation in CMOs’ student achievement impacts and in CMOs’ use of particular educational strategies and practices.  The last report from the study found that the most effective CMOs tend to emphasize two practices in particular: high expectations for student behaviour and intensive teacher coaching and monitoring. This report provides a more in-depth description of these two promising CMO practices, drawing on surveys and interviews with staff in high-performing CMOs that emphasize one or both practices.  However, CMO leaders say that high expectations for student behaviour and intensive teacher coaching should not be considered “silver bullets.” These leaders suggest that these practices are more effective when coordinated or implemented in conjunction with other strategies, such as:

 Recruitment and training of strong school leaders who can monitor and improve instruction, hold teachers accountable, and set the tone for student behaviour and school culture

Commitment to college-going expectations and academic supports for all students, regardless of background

Development of strong data systems, time set aside for teachers to analyse and discuss data, and an expectation that teachers will regularly adjust instruction based on evidence

Formulation of school- or system-wide instructional goals and frameworks to guide teacher, coach, and principal action

Development of strong, trusting relationships between school staff and students

Provision of resources (such as handbooks and online lesson plans) from the central office to inform teacher practice

Cultivation of commitments from parents to reinforce school actions

Learning from Charter School Management Organizations:   Strategies for Student Behaviour and Teacher Coaching Robin Lake, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt  Center on Reinventing Public Education  Moira McCullough, Joshua Haimson,  Brian Gill  Mathematica Policy Research  March 2012



Milwaukee Independent Charter Schools Study:  Report on One Year of Student Growth

Not much difference in performance between Charters and Public schools


Supporters of Charter schools see the potential of high-quality charter schools to help transform the education system by raising achievement levels, closing achievement gaps, providing competitive pressure to traditional public schools and stimulating greater innovation.

The first evaluations of charter school achievement seemed to suggest that charter schools performed no better than traditional public schools, on average. The Charter Schools Dust-Up, a meta-analysis of early charter schools studies, found that students in charter schools scored about the same or sometimes worse on standardized tests compared to students in traditional public schools (Carnoy et al. 2005). However, more recent reviews of panel studies evaluating charter school achievement contain findings which suggest results are more mixed and more positive (in favour of Charters) than the findings for example  of Carnoy et al. (2005). The problem with the Charter movement generally is the variation in the quality of Charter schools-some are very good indded – the KIPP Chain etc-others are clearly no better in terms of performance than public schools. (Although it is worth remembering that Charter schools tend to be in the most disadvantaged areas and have, for the most part, less per capita funding than the average public school)  Supporters  posit that giving charter schools more flexibility over such practices  as hiring teachers, budgeting school funds, and selecting curricula will lead to these positive outcomes (Finn, Manno and Vanourek 2001; Payne and Knowles 2009). Further, through a system of accountability, they expect to reduce the number of low-quality charter schools that are not able to meet the standards they agreed to in their charters (basically contracts). Indeed there has been a major push to tighten up vetting procedures and contracts in states-with each state having its own charter laws.

In addition charter school have proved popular with parents, particularly from minority communities.

The aim of this particular evaluation was to assess the effectiveness of independent charter schools in promoting two desirable student outcomes: student achievement growth and educational attainment.  This report provides findings comparing the first year of achievement growth (2006 to 2007) of students attending independent charters to the achievement growth of a group of matched comparison students attending  Milwaukee Public Schools.  The report states ‘Using regression models that produce the most precise estimates of 2007  achievement, our comparisons of students in our sample of independent  Milwaukee charters to matched MPS students exhibit few significant effects of attending a charter school on achievement growth in either maths or  reading.  The exception is in one of our three models for mathematics gains.  When we control for prior achievement, and not for student characteristics or switching schools, students in charter schools gain approximately .105 standard deviations more in maths achievement than students in MPS.  Further analysis reveals that the positive impact of independent charter schools on average in maths is concentrated primarily at the lower end of the achievement distribution; these schools were estimated to improve the maths achievement of students at the 25th percentile of the achievement  distribution by .109 standard deviations. There are no differences in any models in reading. There are differences, however, when we disaggregate the charter impacts  by charter school type. Conversion independent charters, schools which converted from private schools, hold an advantage in math and reading achievement.  Prior to controlling for both student characteristics and  if students switched schools, students in conversion charters make .170  standard deviations greater gains in math achievement compared to similar  students in MPS schools. Once controlling for student characteristics and school switching, the effect is reduced to .114 standard deviations.   Similarly, in reading, students in conversion charters make .124 standard deviations more gains than MPS students without controlling for student  characteristics and switching schools. By adding these factors the effect is reduced to .054 standard deviations. At the same time, students in non -conversion, independent charter schools, schools which began as new charter schools or start-ups, achieve gains that are no different from their  counterparts in MPS.’  School switching the report noted  has a  negative impact on student achievement gains .

Again both pro and anti -charter campaigners  will  draw some comfort from this survey. It  is hard to argue though that charters are damaging pupils prospects in Milwaukee.

John F. Witte; Patrick J. Wolf; Alicia Dean; Deven Carlson School Choice Demonstration Programme CDP Milwaukee Evaluation ; Report #21 — Version 1.1; December 2010