A new study seems to confirm what many traditional public school officials have been saying for years about student performance in charter schools: when all things are equal, traditional public schools and charters perform about the same.
Forward Institute, a Wisconsin public policy organization, compared the Milwaukee school district’s state accountability report cards to those of the Milwaukee district charters and 2R privately managed charters.
A combination of lower truancy and poverty rates, as well as fewer students with disabilities, gave the charters an advantage over the Milwaukee Public Schools. Both charters also hired more experienced and qualified teachers.
The report card scores of the charters appeared higher until they were adjusted to account for truancy, poverty, and teacher experience. Once adjusted, students in the charter schools didn’t perform any better than those in traditional public schools.
Chronic truancy is the most adverse factor impacting student performance in Milwaukee Public Schools, according to the study.
The Wisconsin education system is often cited as an important one to watch, especially after the contentious election of Republican Governor Scott Walker. The governor ran a campaign that was hostile to teachers in traditional public schools and supportive of charter schools.
The Wisconsin study probably won’t surprise many teachers and administrators working in urban public schools. But it does underscore the relationship between truancy and poverty in urban school districts, and how the two issues impact student performance.
As more parents opt out of the Milwaukee Public School system in favor of charters, MPS will see higher concentrations of poor students whose educational needs are costlier, according to the study.