Students attending California charter schools were 8.5 percent more likely to be proficient at reading and 5.0 percent more likely to be proficient at math than students attending nearby public schools, according to a December 2004 national study of charter schools conducted by Harvard University economist Caroline Hoxby. For students attending California charter schools that have been in operation for at least six years, the likely proficiency gains were even higher: 11.8 percent in reading and 12.2 percent in math.
“The longer that charter schools have the opportunity to educate students, the better those students do,” said Caprice Young, CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. “California’s charter schools are taking in students who have not had access to a high-quality public education and they are getting them on the path to success.”
The eight-year-old Watts Learning Center, recently named a California Distinguished School, is an example of a charter school that produces significant achievement gains while serving a student population that falls almost entirely below the federal poverty line. In 2004, the school’s Academic Performance Index score of 786 was more than 100 points higher than the second-highest-performing school in Los Angeles Unified’s District 7.
“We are able to provide the support necessary for high academic achievement simply because we have the empowering autonomy as a charter school,” said Gene Fisher, founding president of the Watts Learning Center. “By being able to make decisions at the local school level, we are able to successfully address the needs of our students and their families without having to go to a distant, impersonal source for permission.”
George A. Clowes ([email protected]) is associate editor of School Reform News.