Archive for June, 2010

New Brief Explains Research on Teacher Attrition in Charter Schools

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010


Are teachers in charter schools more likely to leave their jobs than those at traditional public schools?  If so, why? Those questions and other issues related to teaching conditions are examined in a research brief just posted on the NCSC Web site for the paper “Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools,” by David A. Stuit and Thomas M. Smith. 

The brief is designed to be useful to both the general public – including educators and parents – and to scholars and graduate students. Using plain language and straightforward explanations it tells how the researchers framed the project and conducted the study. It explains terms and processes from the paper and highlights the research questions and key findings so they are easy to identify.

Major findings include:

  • Charter school teachers are much more likely both to leave the profession and to switch schools than teachers in traditional public schools.
  • Among charter schools, attrition is likelier to be higher in those started from    the ground up than those converted from traditional public schools.
  • Differences in teacher characteristics explain much of the differences in attrition among charter and traditional public school teachers. For example, charter teachers are more likely to be part time and less likely to have state certification – two factors found to contribute to turnover.
  • Dissatisfaction with working conditions is an important reason why charter school teachers are significantly more likely to switch schools or leave the profession.
  • Charter school teachers are more likely to leave involuntarily, possibly because of staffing action at the school, than are teachers in traditional public schools. The study also found little evidence, however, that turnover is higher at charter schools because they exercise greater flexibility in personnel practices.

The relative freedom charter schools have from rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools is often of interest in charter school research, and the brief tells how the study investigated whether this difference might foster different organizational conditions in the two sectors that could affect teacher attrition.

The study also investigated whether turnover differs among different types of charter schools and found that schools run by education management organizations (EMOs) did not have significantly different turnover rates than their non-EMO counterparts. It also did not find a significant difference in turnover between new charter schools and those that have operated for more than three years.

The paper’s findings have important policy implications. High turnover is both expensive and disruptive for schools so understanding the reasons teachers leave their jobs is important. As the brief notes, the findings that charter school teachers are more likely to leave their jobs, and that departure is more likely to be driven by job dissatisfaction, may help explain why charter schools do not systematically outperform their traditional public school counterparts.

Read the brief here and the full paper here.


Read these papers about teachers in schools of choice from the NCSC publications archive.

Teacher Working Conditions and Qualifications in Schools of Choice

The Qualifications and Classroom Performance of Teachers Moving to Charter Schools

Teams Versus Bureaucracies: Personnel Policy, Wage-Setting, and Teacher Quality in Traditional Public, Charter, and Private Schools

D.C. Voucher Program Raises Graduation Odds

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

 Washington, D.C., students who won vouchers to attend private schools under a federally funded program were more likely overall to graduate from high school than students who applied for a voucher but did not win one in a lottery, according to a new report on research into the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).

 The study also looked at student achievement, but the findings were less conclusive. Overall, standardized test scores in both reading and mathematics were not statistically significantly different for students who won vouchers and those who did not. The program did appear to boost achievement for some students, however. Voucher winners in certain subgroups – girls, students with higher academic performance before the program, and those who did not come from schools deemed in need of improvement under No Child Left Behind – had significantly higher reading scores. No statistically significant differences were found in math.

 The report is the sixth and final annual evaluation of the program conducted by a team of researchers led by scholars at the University of Arkansas. The OSP was created by Congress in 2004 to give low-income students a chance “to attend higher performing schools” by providing vouchers worth up to $7,500 to cover tuition, fees, and transportation costs. If too many students applied, voucher recipients were to be chosen by lottery, with higher priority given to students from “needs improvement” schools.

 The lotteries provided the research teams with randomly assigned treatment and control groups, allowing them to use rigorous experimental methods to measure the effects of vouchers. The evaluators looked at effects of the program over at least four years on both students who were offered vouchers and those who accepted the offer and actually attended a private school. The final report uses data from the 2008-09 school year. Congress voted last year to end the program but allowed students already enrolled with vouchers to continue until they graduate.

 Graduation rates were higher overall than control groups both for students who were offered vouchers and those who actually used the awards to attend private schools, with the impact being greater for the latter group. The rates were also higher for some subgroups – girls, students from schools in need of improvement, and those with higher achievement levels before the program. The report notes that graduation data came from parental reports, not school records.

 The evaluators also measured parents’ and students’ assessments of their school’s safety and their overall satisfaction with the school. Parents of children who were offered vouchers rated schools more positively than parents whose children lost the lotteries, while students in the two groups reported gave their schools generally comparable ratings.

 The research team also tracked which students who were offered vouchers used them to attend private schools and investigated why other students did not use them or attended private schools only sporadically.  Some families reported that they declined the vouchers because their chosen school did not have space or did not participate in the program. Others said they did not find special services they needed or that their student was accepted at a desired charter school. Some families left the program because they left Washington or gained enough income to exceed the program’s participation criteria.

Read the full report here and the executive summary here.


Learn about more voucher research associated with the NCSC.

Read materials on the 2009 evaluation, which was discussed at the NCSC conference in October 2009.

These NCSC projects study several aspects of voucher programs.

Competitive Effects of Vouchers (Florida)

Advanced Analyses of Randomized School Voucher Experiments

Impact of Choice and Competition in Milwaukee

36 File for Round 2 of Race to the Top

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia filed applications in the second phase of the Race to the Top competition in hopes of winning a piece of the $3.4 billion to be divvied up among winning states for reform efforts, the Department of Education has announced.

As in the first phase, charter schools played a key role in many applications — and in several often-contentious legislative sessions this spring as governors and legislators pressed to lessen restrictions on charter schools. For example, New York lawmakers approved legislation to raise the cap on charter schools to 460, from 200, and ban for-profit charter companies. The vote came after days of intense debate in which teachers unions fiercely opposed the expansion. In Hawaii, a new law also will allow more charter schools to start. And while North Carolina did not lift its longstanding 100-school cap on the number of charters, a new law will allow for the conversion of underperforming schools into charters. All three states applied.

Federal education officials called for states to expand charter offerings when announcing the Race to the Top program, and the scoring rubric grants up to 40 points out of a total of 500 for “ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools.”

Some of the 10 states that do not allow charters debated passing laws this year that would have reversed those policies. Those efforts largely met with failure. In Kentucky and Alabama, for example, charter school bills failed despite strong support by the governors and some key legislators. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear also floated the idea of including a charter bill in a special session called in late May to pass a budget, but chose not to at the last minute because the measure did not have enough support to pass.

Many newspapers reported that the possibility of gaining millions of additional federal dollars motivated recession-battered states to approve school reform packages that would have struggled for support in other years. The two states that won the first phase of Race to the Top — Tennessee and Delaware — were awarded $500 million and $100 million, respectively.

The following states applied for the second round; those in italics were among the 16 finalists in Round One: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin.

Several states that applied for Round One did not resubmit for the second phase. They include Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

States winning the second phase will be announced by the end of September.

Read the DOE’s press release here and Race to the Top Web site here.

Read a Wall Street Journal story about new reform efforts by states eager to win Race to the Top money and an Associated Press story about states that decided not to apply. Read about New York’s charter expansion in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  Read about Hawaii’s new law in the Honolulu Advertiser and about North Carolina’s new charter law in the Raleigh News & Observer. A Lexington Herald-Leader story describes Kentucky’s charter-less Race application.


Learn more about National Center on School Choice research on charter schools.

Indianapolis Charter School Study

Opening the Black Box in Choice and Regular Public Schools: A Study of What Makes Schools Work

Political and Legal Analysis of the Charter School Marketplace


The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.