Study: Some LA Charter Schools Outpace Nearby Traditional Schools in Testing

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Test score improvements at L.A. Unified's 100+ charter school campuses are zooming past rising scores at nearby traditional campuses. So says a study from the statewide association that's been pushing for more charter schools. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez has more.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: Which charter school campus outshined all others? Eighty-nine student Bright Star Secondary Academy in South L.A. On average its Academic Performance Index test scores were 233 points higher than three nearby middle schools run by L.A. Unified.

Charters are state-funded campuses free of school district governance. The California Charter Schools Association study documented test scores for Bright Star and other charters. The findings speak volumes, says association president Caprice Young, and the L.A. Unified School District should listen.

Caprice Young: They have a responsibility to support and promote charter schools on an equal basis with non-charter public schools, and that means providing facilities to charter schools, and that means letting parents know what their options are.

Guzman-Lopez: Charter school advocates like Young and district administrators have tussled in recent years over where to house charters. Charter supporters say school districts are shirking their legal obligations to provide space. L.A. Unified says it doesn't have enough money or room to fulfill that obligation.

The study culled test scores from the state's department of education. It didn't provide an in-depth analysis of curriculum or teaching in charter school classrooms. The results of that kind of study, says UCLA education researcher Jeannie Oakes, would shine a brighter light on charters' high test scores.

Jeannie Oakes: Most studies of charter schools find an enormous variation among charter schools. So there are some that seem to be doing quite well, there are some that seem to be doing quite miserably, and in that respect, they're not so different from ordinary public schools.

Guzman-Lopez: School districts, Oakes says, have paid attention to charter school innovations. In recent years, L.A. Unified has split up many of its large high schools into smaller campuses designed to offer students more personal attention.