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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Study: performance of charter schools in suburban and downstate communities

The Illinois Policy Institute has recently released a new report, Unsung Heroes: Charter Schools, which examines the performance of charter schools in suburban and downstate communities.

Interest in charter schools outside of Chicago has rapidly increased in the last year, with 3 charter school proposals approved in Rockford and 2 more in the works, in addition to proposals submitted in the South Suburbs, Joliet, Peoria and Waukegan. IL law caps the total number of charter schools outside of Chicago at 15 in the suburbs and 15 downstate.

Here are the report's highlights, courtesy of the IPI blog:

The Data
The new Illinois Policy Institute report focuses on charter schools that enrolled K-12 students during the 2007-2008 school year. These downstate and suburban charter schools outperformed the district averages in 72.1 percent of direct comparisons of academic performance.

  • In every instance, charter schools posted higher attendance rates and lower truancy rates than district schools.
  • In 4 of 7 comparisons, charter schools had a higher percentage of all students meeting/exceeding state standards on state tests. (In one instance, the overall performance of district schools and a charter school was identical).
  • In 4 of 6 comparisons, charter schools made stronger one-year gains on state tests.

A closer grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject analysis of performance showed charter schools were making strong headway. Overall, the grade-level test results at charter schools exceeded the district averages 72.0 percent of the time.

In a wide majority of comparisons, downstate and suburban charter schools outperformed the average at district schools in each subject tested: reading, math, science and writing. And in two schools where the grade-level performance of economically disadvantaged students could be compared directly to district averages, charter students outperformed the district averages in 67.7 percent, or 21 of 31, direct comparisons.

The demand for charter schools is real and the need is urgent. More than 13,000 students on wait list in communities throughout Illinois want the charter public school option. In fact, according to a recent poll of Illinois parents, demand for charter public schools is strong and growing. The poll showed that approximately 80 percent of parents are both interested in and favor charter public schools.

Legislators are taking notice of this large constituency of parents, teachers, students and leaders who will no longer wait silently on the sidelines. The charter school community is empowered, vocal and will not rest until every child in every community has the chance to choose a quality education.

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