James Vaznis of the Boston Globe reports on research from our neighbor to the North (Massachusetts, that is, not Canada) regarding Charter schools…
Charter schools were created as part of the 1993 Education Reform Act, as a way to develop new teaching strategies that could eventually be transferred to public schools. The approximately 60 schools operate under looser state regulations than traditional schools, have mostly nonunion teachers, and are run by independent boards that report directly to the state. They have been particularly popular in urban school districts among parents and students frustrated with traditional schools.
…versus “pilot” schools…
Boston created the pilot school concept a year later, with the idea of embracing the innovative teaching methods while avoiding some of the controversies. Unlike charters, the pilot schools are still run by the School Department, which means that the district still receives state funding for each student who attends them. Many school districts across the state have complained that charters drain much-needed resources from traditional schools because the state funding follows the students to the new school.
The Boston’s 18 pilot schools also have teachers’ unions, although the provisions are scaled back to allow for experimentation with longer school days and other changes that unions have traditionally resisted.
The results are…
The study, being released today at a Boston Foundation forum, examined state standardized test scores for students of similar backgrounds at the three kinds of schools over a four-year period. In the most stark example, charters – independent public schools dedicated to innovative teaching – excelled significantly in middle school math. However, pilots, which have similar goals but are run by the School Department, performed at slightly lower rates than traditional schools, according to the study….
Charter students in middle and high schools showed consistent gains on the math and English exams. The results of pilot schools were less clear. Middle school pilots performed slightly below students in regular middle schools in math and about the same in English. High school pilot performance was a little better, but researchers still deemed those results ambiguous.
The entire Boston Foundation study
is available online here