ATLANTA —May 24, 2012 — In less than 20 years, charter schools have grown from educational experiment into a high-profile part of education reform — but key questions remain unanswered
about their effectiveness and impact on student performance, according to a new report from the Southern Regional Education Board.
These questions are becoming more urgent since the number of charter schools in SREB states now tops 1,500, and enrollment in some states has reached six figures.
Of the 16 SREB states, 13 permit the creation of charter schools: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. While the percentage of public school students in charter schools is small in some states, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana and Texas have seen charter enrollment grow more rapidly or into a larger share of public-school enrollment, the report says. In Florida and Texas, charter school enrollment surpassed 150,000 in 2010-2011.
Charter Schools in SREB States: Critical Questions and Next Steps for States
notes that research on charter schools is limited and shows mixed results, leaving state leaders and policy-makers without enough information about funding, accountability and impact on traditional public schools. The report outlines key policy questions and recommends actions states can take to clarify the issues and maximize the academic opportunities charter schools present.
“As charter enrollments climb, it is vital that state leaders have the information they need to ensure that these schools improve student academic performance and public education as a whole,” said Gale Gaines, SREB vice president of state services.
The report calls for all SREB states with charter school laws to:
Require meaningful measures of academic performance in charter school contracts.
Ensure that all charter school authorizers set rigorous guidelines for application reviews.
Enforce solid measures of oversight, including reviewing every charter school at regular intervals.
Develop adequate funding so that financial deficiencies do not undermine academic outcomes for charter school students.
Study student performance so more is known about what variables affect it.
For a more complete look at state-level data and all recommendations, download the full report (PDF) >