The evidence on the effectiveness of charter schools is mixed at best. But a recent study by economists from MIT and other schools (that was featured in NYT recently) shows that one type of charter school has been consistently successful -- schools that set high expectations for students and high levels of support for teachers and students.
The research team followed charters in the Boston public schools. Lotteries determine who gets into charters, so there is a real experimental design to the research. Those fortunate to get into charters learn more in school and are more likely to go to college. Most of the charter students come from low income families and are learning at the same level as those in public schools from upper and middle income families.
One researcher noted that the impact of the charter environment was far greater than variables such as class size and new buildings. Another, who used to be a union organizer, said the gains from these charters were the largest she had ever seen in her career.
Yesterday Massachusetts voted on a referendum to significantly expand charter schools. It lost 62 to 38 percent.
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