Out of Control Policy Blog

Charter School competition improves performance

From NCPA's news clips:

Proponents of school choice argue that charter schools improve
the quality of education. Opponents retort that they just waste
education dollars. A new report from the National Bureau of
Economic Research finds that charter schools did improve school
quality in North Carolina.(Report summary - - Full report)

In 1996, North Carolina had no charter schools. By 2000, it had
91 charter schools that enrolled 14,899 students, about 1 percent
of the state's total public school enrollment. To determine
whether these charter schools accomplished anything, the authors
used end of year test scores for grades three through eight from
North Carolina's statewide testing program. They found:

o Charter school competition raised the composite test
scores in district schools, even though the students
leaving district schools for the charters tended to have
above average test scores.

o The gain was relatively large, roughly two to five times
greater than the gain from decreasing the student-faculty
ratio by 1, and a gain of more than 0.75 percent in 1999-
2000.

For comparison, the authors point out that the North Carolina
Governor's Office proposed increasing achievement by reducing
average class size by 1.8 students at a cost of $26 million in
2002. The data suggest that this would produce just one-third of
the test score increase created by opening a neighboring charter
school, a move that would not require any additional spending.

Adrian Moore is Vice President, Policy


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