NEPC Review: Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform (October 2011)
In this report, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) claims that California charter schools are reversing the trend of low academic achievement among African American students and effectively closing the Black-White achievement gap. After a review of CCSA’s analyses and findings, however, it becomes clear that the claims are misrepresented or exaggerated. In the years under study, African American students enrolled in traditional public schools outgained those enrolled in charter schools by a small margin, although the charter school students started and ended higher. In addition, the authors present a regression model, with Academic Performance Index (API) scores as the outcome variable, that accounts for only 3-6% of overall variance. Based on this model, the percentage of African American enrollment is negatively related to API scores in both charter and traditional public schools, a trend that will not reverse the academic standing for African American students. In fact, the gap continues to grow, albeit at a slightly slower rate in charter schools. Finally, the report’s claim that charter schools are centers of innovation does not hold. Rather, as the authors eventually conclude themselves, there were no instructional practices observed in California charter schools that are not also present in traditional public schools.