Boston Charter Schools Lead the Country

May 6, 2013

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Stanford Researcher Discusses Findings with Race to the Top Coalition

Eighty-three percent of the charter public schools in Boston produced better results in math and reading than comparable Boston public schools in the six academic years ending in 2011, a Stanford University researcher told an audience at the Boston Foundation May 6, noting that they were “the first charter sector in the country to achieve this.”

“We were a little skeptical that these results could be real,” said research associate Edward Cremata, coauthor of a 2013 report on Massachusetts Charter School performance by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford. But the results held up on close examination, showing that Boston charter schools basically doubled the number of students who could read and do math at a level above the state average while traditional public schools basically maintained the “status quo.”

In Boston, poor children who attend charter schools show higher achievement than their traditional public-school peers in both math and reading, while low-income black and Hispanic students “are catching up quickly to white non-poverty students”— a finding that Mr. Cremata called a “first.” While Boston charters showed the most dramatic results, charter schools in the rest of the state also performed better than the national average, he noted.

“We are pleased but not surprised by these results,” said Mary Jo Meisner, Vice President for Communications, Community Relations and Public Affairs for the Boston Foundation. “The real winners, as we all know, are the children, particularly children in poverty, and that’s what brings us back again to seek further important reforms.”

Mr. Cremata and Ms. Meisner spoke at an event for members of the “Race to the Top Coalition,” a group of education, business, and civic leaders who will testify tomorrow on Beacon Hill in favor of legislation that will lift caps on charter schools and allow other reforms in the Commonwealth’s lowest performing school districts. The event was cosponsored by the Boston Foundation and the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association.

Paul Sagan, Director and Senior Advisor at Akamai Technologies and Chair of Massachusetts Business Leaders for Charter Schools, said: “The CREDO work has shown that we have something really special going on in Massachusetts, and especially here in Boston.” The children enrolled in charter schools “are raising the bar of what we should expect for every child in every school in Massachusetts.”

“These results can serve as an example to the state and to the rest of the country,” he said. “We know the status quo is not working. We see the outcomes in too many kids.”

He urged members of the business community to add their signatures to a letter (already signed by 160 businesspeople) urging the Legislature to make sure that low-income and minority families have “as good a chance as affluent suburban kids to build a solid educational foundation for future success.”

Mr. Sagan noted that the Race to the Top Coalition was “one of the main reasons” the 2010 Act Relevant to the Achievement Gap was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in 2010 and said he was confident the coalition could replicate its success with this year’s proposed legislation, known as An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap.

Coalition members will testify before a Legislative committee in Room A-1 at the State House beginning at 9:30 a.m. on May 7.  Click here for more about tomorrow's rally.