- An increase in the number of charter schools in California — and in Los Angeles specifically — was one of the issues raised by United Teachers Los Angeles in its strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District, but the growth of the charter sector is beginning to level off, according to a new report from Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization that supports school choice.
- There are now more than 7,000 charter schools in the U.S., the report says, but the rate of growth has slowed to 3% since 2014, down from 6% between 2008 and 2014. Since 2005, charter school growth has been concentrated in 16 states, with the majority of growth in California, Texas and Florida, according to the report.
- More research is needed to better understand how students in charter schools perform academically in comparison to those in traditional public schools, the authors write, but in general, students in charters outperform their peers in district schools in reading, but not in math.
The City Studies Project at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes is one example of how researchers are providing more detailed comparisons between charter and traditional schools.
As charter schools continue to become more prevalent across the country, however, one challenge facing them is that there is wide variation in the effectiveness of organizations that authorize charters and decide on their renewal. One of the Getting Down to Facts II reports, which assessed California’s education system, also noted that the state has set “a low bar” for charter reauthorization.
“Charter school authorizers in California operate with little oversight from the state. No mechanism exists for the state to prevent a district or county office with a poor track record from continuing to authorize schools, nor are there any public performance reports produced at the authorizer level,” the report said.
The strike in Los Angeles also seemed to pit supporters of traditional public schools against those who operate and run charters, but in reality, many Los Angeles families and educators have connections to both.
“It isn’t a binary kind of situation,” Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO of the California Charter School Association, said in an interview, adding that it’s not uncommon for families with multiple children to have one in a traditional neighborhood school and another in a charter school. “Los Angeles families are used to figuring out what are the best schools that meet their students’ learning preferences.”