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No Difference Between Math Scores at Public and Charter Schools

Posted by on Monday, November 29, 2010 in Around the Mall, Winter 2010.

New research based on preliminary data in a pilot study has found no significant difference in achievement gains on standardized math tests between students in charter schools and those in traditional public schools. The findings have spurred the collection of additional data for continued analysis.

Ellen Goldring, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Education Policy and Leadership, was a principal investigator on the project.

As the school choice movement continues to gather steam and monies are poured into new options, research on choice is expanding to assess whether the movement is accomplishing what it aims to do, the researchers said. It is important, Goldring and her colleagues contend in the report, to look inside “the black box” to see what is actually happening in the schools.

It is equally important, the researchers reported, to examine not just achievement effects but organizational and instructional conditions in charter and traditional public schools. The idea is to get to the key question: Does choice lead to the types of innovations hoped for by its founders?

As a next step, the researchers plan to continue the research by gathering measures of school effectiveness to understand what conditions foster academic growth and achievement gains.

Mark Berends, formerly at Peabody and now professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, was lead author for the report. In addition to Goldring, co-authors were Marc Stein, assistant professor of education at Johns Hopkins University, and Xiu Cravens, research assistant professor of education policy at Vanderbilt.

The report, “Instructional Conditions in Charter Schools and Students’ Mathematics Achievement Gains,” was published in the American Journal of Education.

This and other current research briefs may be accessed at, the newly updated website for the National Center on School Choice, a research consortium based at Peabody. The new website provides better and more extensive access to more than 100 research papers, journal articles and books on school choice.


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