Recently the respected web site Education Next highlighted a new study by Sarah Cordes of Temple University which looked at charter schools and their spillover effects on neighboring non-charter students.
Cordes studied charter schools and neighboring public schools in New York City from 1996 to 2010. She had some interesting findings:
- Students whose schools are near charter schools, do better, and the closer the charter school is, the better these students do. (Some NYC charter schools share a building with NYC public schools, a practice called “co-location.” Cordes found spillover benefits were highest in areas where charters and public schools were in close proximity).
- Students attending a “co-located” district school perform .08 standard deviations better in math and .06 standard deviations better in reading.
- Students in district schools within one half-mile of a charter school perform .02 standard deviations higher in both math and reading.
- No significant spillover effects — positive or negative — were found on students in district schools located more than a half mile away from the nearest charter school.
- As charter school density grows, so do the effects. Student in district schools within a mile radius perform significantly better in math than students with just one charter in the neighborhood. They are also significantly less likely to be retained.
- The effect of charter schools on historically underperforming groups in neighboring district schools was to raise the performance of all groups except Hispanic students and students classified as LEP (Limited English Proficiency). The impact of charters had no effect on both groups.
Much of the recent discussion over charters has focused on claims that charters siphon funds from traditional public schools. Although Cordes’ research is focused on NYC schools, it suggests that charters don’t hurt local public schools. In fact, their presence –along with the competition — helps boost student performance in local public schools.
Food for thought for the ongoing and often overheated discussion on the impact of charter schools on local public schools.