Culture, Organization, Practices, and Cost of Choice in Urban Schools

    This study of charter and regular public schools in a large Midwestern city has three goals: to consider charter and regular public school performance in terms of resource constraints; to shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of charter school practitioners compared to traditional public schools; and to identify the culture, managerial practices, and organizational frameworks that contribute to performance and resource allocation decisions.

    Preliminary findings indicate that charter elementary school performance improves over time, with longer running charters beating statistical expectations for their value added to student achievement. Charter high school performance is distributed roughly the same as regular public schools, with most charters neither above nor below statistical expectations. Overall, charter school performance varies significantly by school, subject matter, and grade level. Charter schools generally perform better in reading than in math, and their science achievement in both elementary and secondary grades remains low relative to other subjects. Additional analyses suggest that the pattern of charter school performance in this large Midwestern city is mirrored in other states. Regarding managerial practices, charter schools demonstrate different spending patterns, though evidence is mixed on whether these differences correlate significantly with achievement outcomes.

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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.