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AMERICA'S CHARTER SCHOOLS: Results From the NAEP 2003 Pilot Study

AMERICA’S CHARTER SCHOOLS: Results From the NAEP 2003 Pilot Study

A Brief Look at Findings

The NAEP Charter School pilot study released today produced two sets of findings that reflect comparative differences between charter schools and other public schools:

  1. Charter schools tend to enroll more Black students, locate more often in central cities, and hire less experienced and certified teachers.
  2. The mathematics and reading performance of White, Black and Hispanic fourth-graders in charter schools was not measurably different from the performance of fourth-graders with similar racial/ethnic backgrounds in other public schools.   

The National Assessment Governing Board, the independent, bipartisan board that sets policy for the Nation’s Report Card, authorized the pilot study in 2002.  The data for the study were gathered in the 2003 NAEP assessment in reading and mathematics at the fourth-grade level. The pilot study included 150 charter schools and sampled 3,296 students in reading and 3,238 in mathematics.

Although the Governing Board recommends caution in the use of data from a small, pilot study, it feels that the findings are useful in identifying issues that need to be addressed in future assessments of the performance of charter school students. Some potentially important characteristics of charter schools are not captured in regular NAEP surveys.  Differences in the process of students enrolling in a charter rather than another public school are not collected.

In addition, the study report notes that there are wide variations in how charter schools are structured in individual states, the degree of oversight exerted by external agencies, the mission of the schools, and the length of time chartered.

The National Center for Education Statistics, which conducted the study, concluded that the sampling issues identified should be resolved in large part in 2005 when NAEP will assess three subjects—reading, mathematics, and science—in fourth and eighth grades at the state level, and will assess more students than ever before.