Study Snapshot: Unfulfilled Promises: Transfer to a Charter School and Student Achievement in Indiana
 
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For Immediate Release: April 15, 2018

Tony Pals, tpals@aera.net
(202) 238-3235, (202) 288-9333 (cell)

Collin Boylin, cboylin@aera.net
(202) 238-3233, (860) 490-8326 (cell)


Study Snapshot: Unfulfilled Promises: Transfer to a Charter School and Student Achievement in Indiana


Study: “Unfulfilled Promises: Transfer to a Charter School and Student Achievement in Indiana”
Authors: Gary R. Pike (Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis), Hardy Murphy (Indiana University, Bloomington), Pat Rogan (Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis), Demetrees Lee Hutchins (Indiana University)

This study will be presented at the 2018 AERA Annual Meeting 
Date/Time: Sunday, April 15, 10:35 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.

Main Finding:


  • Students who transferred to charter schools had significantly lower math gains over their first two years than if they remained in traditional public schools, creating a deficit for those students returning to public schools.

Details:

  • Using recent data from the Indiana Department of Education, this study extends previous research by assessing charter school effects on student achievement. For their study, the authors looked at students enrolled in grades 3–7 in traditional public schools in Indiana in 2011–12 who transferred to a charter school in 2012–2013.  
  • The results indicated that, on average, students who transferred to a charter school had significantly lower Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP) gains than they would have if they had remained in a traditional public school.
  • Students who transferred to charter schools had significantly lower gains in English language arts (ELA) during the first year of transfer and significantly lower math gains for two years after transfer.
  • Students who remained in charter schools for three or more years did not have significantly lower scores in ELA than if they had remained in a traditional public school.
  • However, the analysis suggests that transfer to charter schools directly led to lower levels of learning gains in mathematics than would have been the case if students had remained in public schools.
  • The finding that students who transferred to charter schools had lower ELA and mathematics gains than if they had remained in traditional public schools is consistent with the findings of previous studies.
  • The finding that students who remained in charter schools for three or four years were able to overcome the initial negative effects of transfer to a charter school is also consistent with results reported in other national studies.
  • However, the study found that only a small proportion of the original cohort of transfer students remained enrolled for three or four years (27 percent and 11 percent, respectively), raising questions about the ability of charter schools to impact the academic achievement of large numbers of students.
  • Of the 1,609 students who transferred in 2012–13, almost half (47 percent) returned to traditional public schools over the next three years. Nearly 22 percent (21.8 percent) returned to traditional public schools after one year; another 14.5 percent returned after two years; and another 10.7 percent returned after three years.
  • Student characteristics that were positively related to the probability of transferring to a charter school included being Black/African American and of lower socioeconomic status (represented by being eligible for free lunch). Students from schools where a high proportion of the school population was Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, low SES, or received special education services were more likely to transfer to charter schools.
  • Contrary to the authors’ expectations, ratings of school quality in 2011–12 were not related to the likelihood of transfer in 2012–13, when other school characteristics are considered. This raises questions about the primary justification for transferring to a charter school, namely an improved academic experience. 
  • “Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Although advocates of charter schools have touted the advantages of these schools over traditional public schools, our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

To request a copy of the full paper, or to talk to study authors, please contact AERA Communications: Tony Pals, Director of Communications, tpals@aera.net, cell: (202) 288-9333; Collin Boylin, Communications Associate, cboylin@aera.net, cell: (860) 490-8326

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The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Founded in 1916, AERA advances knowledge about education, encourages scholarly inquiry related to education, and promotes the use of research to improve education and serve the public good. Find AERA on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


 
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