Study con­firms char­ter schools good for Bal­ti­more

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Mike Chalupa and Kona-Fa­cia Free­man-Ne­pay

CREDO, the Cen­ter for Re­search on Ed­u­ca­tional Out­comes, a non-par­ti­san re­search cen­ter out of Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, re­cently re­leased its re­port on the ed­u­ca­tional im­pact of pub­lic char­ter schools in Mary­land. It was the first such re­port on pub­lic char­ter schools in our state. This study, with data sup­plied from the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, shows the im­pact of pub­lic char­ter schools across Mary­land and Bal­ti­more City. The re­sults and im­pact are pro­found.

An­a­lyz­ing four years of data from 2013 through 2017 and us­ing the baseline of 180 days as one year of learn­ing, CREDO found that Mary­land pub­lic char­ter school stu­dents, on av­er­age, out­per­formed their peers in non-char­ter pub­lic schools. Ac­cord­ing to the study, pub­lic char­ter school stu­dents gained an ad­di­tional 30 days of read­ing and 35 days of math achieve­ment per year. In the last school year of the study, 2016-2017, stu­dents in our pub­lic char­ter schools gained an ad­di­tional 47 days of read­ing and an as­tro­nom­i­cal 59 days of math achieve­ment. These ad­di­tional days of achieve­ment are not due to more phys­i­cal time in school but done in the same 180 days re­quired of all pub­lic school stu­dents.

The study also pro­vides im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion on the stu­dents pub­lic char­ter schools serve. The statewide study con­firms that pub­lic char­ter schools are serv­ing the same stu­dents as their non-char­ter pub­lic coun­ter­parts with an equal or higher num­ber of black stu­dents and spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents, and a com­pa­ra­ble per­cent­age of stu­dents liv­ing in poverty.

But, what does this specif­i­cally mean for Bal­ti­more?

The study goes a step for­ward to ag­gre­gate find­ings specif­i­cally for ur­ban pub­lic char­ter school stu­dents — the vast ma­jor­ity of stu­dents cur­rently in Mary­land pub­lic char­ter schools. These re­sults showed even greater gains for char­ter stu­dents. The stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enc­ing poverty gained an ad­di­tional 30 days of math achieve­ment per year us­ing the same baseline men­tioned above. Black stu­dents gained an ad­di­tional 41 days in read­ing and 47 in math achieve­ment per year. Lat­inX stu­dents gained 41 days of read­ing and a stun­ning 77 days of math achieve­ment. The study goes as far as to state that the re­sults for char­ter schools in Mary­land are no­tably bet­ter than the same study has found in other states across the coun­try.

CREDO says Bal­ti­more pub­lic char­ter schools work — some­thing we have known for al­most 15 years.

As pub­lic char­ter school lead­ers in Bal­ti­more, we have al­ways thought our schools serve as in­no­va­tive, strong op­tions for Bal­ti­more fam­i­lies. A holis­tic eval­u­a­tion of our pub­lic char­ter schools is no­tice­able ev­ery­day with our long wait­lists (some schools have over 1,000 fam­i­lies), our par­ent and guardian tes­ti­mo­ni­als, our no­tice­able ed­u­ca­tor in­no­va­tion and our stu­dent sto­ries of self. We add to the Bal­ti­more City port­fo­lio of pub­lic schools and op­tions with lan­guage im­mer­sion, Montessori, In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate, Reg­gio Emilia, arts in­te­gra­tion and pro­jec­tbased learn­ing, di­rect in­struc­tion, ex­pe­di­tionary learn­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tally-based ed­u­ca­tion and many unique ap­proaches to learn­ing. While the feed­back, de­mand and in­no­va­tions might not be as quan­tifi­able or mea­sur­able, they are an es­sen­tial piece of cre­at­ing a rich, ro­bust pub­lic school ex­pe­ri­ence in our city. This CREDO study con­firms our holis­tic eval­u­a­tion with facts and re­search.

Even though the re­port con­firms strong out­comes for pub­lic char­ter school stu­dents in our city, we also know that pub­lic char­ter schools can be a pow­er­ful tool for keep­ing fam­i­lies in Bal­ti­more. While dis­trict en­roll­ment con­tin­ues to de­cline, de­mand for pub­lic char­ter schools steadily in­creases. The last time Bal­ti­more City Pub­lic Schools saw an en­roll­ment in­crease was from 2006 to 2012. Dur­ing those same years, we saw a steady ex­pan­sion of pub­lic char­ter schools across our city. Since 2012, city schools have essen­tially stopped the ex­pan­sion of pub­lic char­ter schools. Since 2012, to­tal dis­trict en­roll­ment has steadily de­clined.

As we near 15 years since the first pub­lic char­ter schools were founded, we are hon­ored to be part of the com­mu­nity of dozens of pub­lic char­ter school op­er­a­tors, thou­sands of ed­u­ca­tors, over 10,000 fam­i­lies who have worked so hard in a com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing pow­er­ful pub­lic school op­tions for the fam­i­lies and now over 12,000 chil­dren of our city. The CREDO study names the re­sults of this la­bor in bold terms. The fam­i­lies of Bal­ti­more and, now, the data have spo­ken — pub­lic char­ter schools are clearly good for Bal­ti­more’s fam­i­lies and chil­dren.

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