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Case Closed: Charter Schools Deliver More Education ‘Bang’ for the Buck

April 9, 2019 in Economics

By Patrick J. Wolf, Corey A. DeAngelis

Patrick J. Wolf and Corey A. DeAngelis

Polls show that most Americans think our public schools deserve
more funding. Meanwhile, each year, states and school districts
make choices about how to spend the education funds that they have.
Doesn’t it make sense for them to invest in schools that
work
– schools that help students learn the most with the
lowest burden on taxpayers?

Several years ago, we began ­researching which type of public
school — traditional or public charter — delivered the
most ­academically cost-effective education. In a 2018 report, we
­examined eight cities: New York City plus Atlanta, Boston, Denver,
Houston, Indianapolis, San Antonio and Washington, DC.

While their sizes and demographics vary widely, each city has a
substantial concentration of students enrolled in charter schools.
In every city, we found that charter schools were more productive
— that is, they yielded more learning per education dollar
spent than traditional district schools.

Elected officials and
policymakers have a choice about where to invest educational
resources and a responsibility to invest wisely.

Students enrolled in New York City’s charter schools scored
roughly 12 points in reading on the 2015 National Assessment of
Educational Progress, or NAEP, for ­every $1,000 invested in those
schools.

By contrast, students in the city’s traditional public schools
produced about 9.5 NAEP reading points per $1,000 invested,
generating a cost-effectiveness advantage of 24% for charters in
the Big Apple. The results for math were similar: More than 13 NAEP
points per $1,000 of funding for charters compared to almost 10.5
points for traditional schools.

We also discovered that Washington, DC, charters were 67% more
cost-effective than traditional schools. Indianapolis charters
bested their traditional counterparts by 65% on the productivity
measure.

This year we revisited the same eight cities to see if the trend
had continued. It had. Once again, the charter schools in each city
proved more cost-effective. Public charter schools in New York were
25% more cost-effective than the city’s traditional public schools
in producing 2017 NAEP reading scores and 26% more cost-effective
in generating math scores.

San Antonio charter schools, to take another example, were 29%
more cost-effective in math and 30% more cost-effective in reading
than traditional schools. Washington charters were 43% more
cost-effective in both subjects. The results for each city are
detailed in our report, “A Good Investment: The Updated
Productivity of Public Charter Schools in Eight U.S.
Cities.”

We recognized that NAEP scores represent only a snapshot of
academic performance. So we were curious what long-term academic
results would reveal.

By calculating the average amount of learning at traditional and
charter schools, the economic returns to those learning levels over
the ­average lifetime, as well …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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