Southern Regional Ed board report: key questions about charter schools’ effectiveness, impact remain unanswered

A new report by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) finds that two decades after charter schools were established in some southern states, policy makers are still looking for affirmation on whether the school options are either effective or truly raise student achievement.

While Kentucky does not allow charter schools, 13 other SREB states do: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In total, there are more than 1,500 charter schools in those states.

The new SREB report, "Charter Schools in SREB States: Critical Questions and Next Steps for States," notes that research on charter schools is limited and shows mixed results, leaving state leaders and policy-makers without enough information about funding, accountability and impact on traditional public schools. The report outlines key policy questions and recommends actions states can take to clarify the issues and maximize the academic opportunities charter schools present.

“As charter enrollments climb, it is vital that state leaders have the information they need to ensure that these schools improve student academic performance and public education as a whole,” said Gale Gaines, SREB vice president of state services.

The report calls for all SREB states with charter school laws to:

* Require meaningful measures of academic performance in charter school contracts.

* Ensure that all charter school authorizers set rigorous guidelines for application reviews.

* Enforce solid measures of oversight, including reviewing every charter school at regular intervals.

* Develop adequate funding so that financial deficiencies do not undermine academic outcomes for charter school students.

* Study student performance so more is known about what variables affect it.

For a more complete look at state-level data and all recommendations, download the full report (PDF) >

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