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New Study: Data Say Charters Aren't 'Pushing Out' Students

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There is no statistical evidence that charter schools are "pushing out" low-performing students at a rate higher than traditional public schools, according to a new study published in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis journal.

The study, conducted by Ron W. Zimmer, an associate professor of public policy and education at the Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, and Cassandra M. Guarino, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University's School of Education, examined data from an anonymous large urban district with a significant number of charters (60 by 2007). The researchers examined standardized testing and demographic data from the 2000-01 through the 2006-07 school years.

The researchers outline several reasons why charter schools could be motivated to push out low-performing students—such as to strengthen their academic reputation, or because low-performing students may be more expensive to educate, or to address accountability expectations and pressures.

But after analyzing the data, they found that although low-performing students do leave charter schools at a slightly higher rate than higher-performing ones, those patterns are consistent with the rate of student exits in surrounding traditional public schools, where academically struggling students are also leaving the system in higher numbers compared to academically strong students.

The analysis does not examine why students leave charter schools. But the researchers say the data patterns do not reveal evidence to support the claim that charters intentionally push out low-performing students.

The full study is behind a paywall, but you can read an abstract of the article (and pay to read the full text) here.

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