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Charters With More Independence Score Well in Study

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A study suggests that the presence of charter schools, on the whole, in Milwaukee has not inspired traditional public schools to raise their academic game—but the appearance of a certain breed of charter schools has.

That's the finding of a recent analysis released by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, which examines one of the longstanding questions about charters: the extent to which they prod regular public schools to improve themselves.

The author, Hiren Nisar, a senior analyst at Abt Associates, Inc., a research and consulting organization that does work around the United States and internationally, compares the effect of competition felt by traditional Milwaukee public schools from both district-sponsored charter schools and charters not sponsored by the district, which operate which much more independence.

He finds that competition from the non-district sponsored charters had a significantly positive effect on student achievement in neighboring public schools. The gains were evident among low-achieving students, and African-American students, in particular.

It could be that the competition from those charters inspires Milwaukee district administrators, and in turn school principals, to increase their schools' productivity, by working with teachers to improve instruction, promoting greater community involvement, and other means, the author speculates. The study was as part of Nisar's dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he is continuing the research at Abt.

"[T]he competitive effect depends on the authorizing types of charter schools in the district/state," Nisar writes. He added that expanded school choice can produce gains "as long as the expansion of choice is to these non-district sponsored charter schools."

Have a look at the study, and let me know if you buy Nisar's findings on the competitive pressures charters put on their neighbors.

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