Taking Measure of Charter Schools: Better Assessments, Better Policymaking, Better Schools

April 2010

The book is available for purchase from Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Charter schools offer something that public school systems, parents, and teachers need: a way to experiment with alternative ways of teaching, motivating students, organizing schools, using technology, and employing teachers. While people came down on both sides of support for or against charter schools, everyone was surprised by how difficult it was to assess charter school performance.

The first part of this book focuses on how to improve estimates of charter schools' performance, especially their benefits to students who attend them; the second part suggests how policymakers can learn more about charter schools and make better use of evidence. The editors and authors suggest ways states and localities can improve the quality of data on which charter school studies are based and trace some of the ways charter school research influences policy.

This book is aimed at an educated lay audience, and hopes to raise the standards of reporting and legislative use of evidence. But it delves into tough issues:

  • how to use non-test measures in evaluating charter schools,
  • how more sophisticated analysis of outcomes data produces completely different results than naive analysis,
  • how to take account of the special populations charter schools serve,
  • how to take account of the growing pains of new charter schools,
  • how to conduct charter admissions lotteries so they produce a true randomly selected control group, and
  • how legislators and other key actors (e.g., foundations) use information about charter school performance and what that implies for presentation of results.

List of Contributors: June Ahn, Larry Angel, Julian R. Betts, Dominic J. Brewer, Laura S. Hamilton, Jeffrey R. Henig, Paul T. Hill, Robin J. Lake, Patrick J. McEwan, Robert B. Olsen, Lydia Rainey, Brian M. Stecher, Y. Emily Tang, Andrew C. Zau