Across the country, charter schools occupy a growing position in the public education landscape. Heated debate has accompanied their existence since their start in Minnesota two decades ago. Similar debate has occurred in California, particularly in Los Angeles, with charter advocates extolling such benefits of the sector as expanding parental choice and introducing market-based competition to education. Little of that debate, however, is grounded in hard evidence about their impact on student outcomes. This report contributes to the discussion by providing evidence for charter students’ performance in Los Angeles for four years of schooling, beginning with the 2008-2009 school year and concluding in 2011-2012.
With the cooperation of the California Department of Education (CDE), CREDO obtained the historical sets of student-level administrative records. The support of CDE staff was critical to CREDO’s understanding of the character and quality of the data we received. However, it bears mention that the entirety of interactions with CDE dealt with technical issues related to the data. CREDO has developed the findings and conclusions independently.
This report provides an in-depth examination of the results for charter schools physically located within the Los Angeles Unified School District boundary. It is the first separate analysis by CREDO of the performance of Los Angeles’ charter schools. However, charter schools in Los Angeles were included in the CREDO report on all California charter schools, which can be found on our website.1 This report has two main benefits. First, it provides a rigorous and independent view of the performance of the city’s charter schools. Second, the study design is consistent with CREDO’s reports on charter school performance in other locations, making the results amenable to being benchmarked against those nationally and in other states and cities.
The analysis presented here takes two forms. We first present the findings about the effects of charter schools on student academic performance. These results are expressed in terms of the academic progress that a typical charter school student in Los Angeles would realize from a year of enrollment in a charter school. The second set of findings is presented at the school level. Because schools are the instruments on which the legislation and public policy operate, it is important to understand the range of performance for the schools. These findings look at the performance of students by school and present school average results.
Compared to the educational gains that charter students might have had in a traditional public school (TPS), the analysis shows that in a year’s time, on average, students in Los Angeles charter schools make larger learning gains in reading and mathematics. Results for Hispanic charter students, especially Hispanic students in poverty, are particularly notable. At the school level, we compare the average performance over two growth periods to the average results for the school’s control group. The results in Los Angeles are among the strongest observed in any of the previous CREDO studies. Larger shares of schools outperform their local market in reading and math than was reported in the national study that was released in 2013.2
Meanwhile, a majority of Madison School Board members rejected the Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school a few years ago. The traditional – Frederick Taylor -, non diverse governance model remains well entrenched here.