Boston Globe

Blueprint evidence looms large in the MA charter debate

A recent feature in the Boston Globe, “Charters are contentious in cities. Should they be put to statewide vote?,” features Blueprint research.

There’s now a fair bit of evidence that well-designed charter schools can outperform their public school counterparts — and that Boston’s charters are among the best in the country.

Comparing charter schools and traditional public schools is tricky business. You can’t just look at the test scores and see who does better, because they serve different kinds of kids. Among other things, charter schools tend to have fewer English language learners, as well as fewer children with serious disabilities.

But even when you correct for these kinds of differences, and compare identical or nearly identical cohorts, the kids in Boston’s charter schools seem to do better on tests and other measures of academic success. As to why this might be, there are as many questions as answers. Is it the extra class time? Or perhaps the commonly used, no-excuses approach to education? And how much depends on the fact that some charters seem to push out disruptive kids — as happened in one prominent New York scandal involving a “got to go” list?

Despite these lingering questions, the research consensus has grown stronger in recent years: Urban charter schools do seem to help students — and it’s the once-struggling students who enjoy the biggest gains.