The Report on Pennsylvania Charter Schools (PDF) was released last week from the Center for Research and Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. This report examines the performance of Pennsylvania charter schools for the period 2007 – 2010. In the summary, they state that
Overall, charter school performance in Pennsylvania lagged in growth compared to traditional public schools. Looking at the distribution of school performance, 60% of the charter schools performed with similar or better success than the traditional public schools in reading and 53% of charter schools performed with similar or better success in math compared to traditional public schools. Performance at cyber charter schools was substantially lower than the performance at brick and mortar charters with 100% of cyber charters performing significantly worse than their traditional public school counterparts in both reading and math. Elementary school students enrolled in charter schools outperformed their peers in traditional public schools in both math and reading, while those enrolled in middle and multilevel charter schools performed worse in both subjects than their peers at traditional public schools. Charter schools of all ages in Pennsylvania on average perform worse than traditional public schools, and charter school students grow at lower rates compared to their traditional public school peers in their first 3 years in charter schools, although the gap shrinks considerably in math and disappears entirely in reading by the third year of attendance… Ultimately, the story of charter schools in Pennsylvania should not be told using simple averages, as the significant variation in the distribution of charter school performance suggests. As is the case in many states across the country, a renewed focus on quality by the charter sector and among charter authorizers will help to ensure that the excellent performance provided by a significant proportion of the charter sector is emulated and reproduced, not mitigated by the poor performance of others. Without a vigorous focus on quality, the charter sector as a whole is put at risk by those schools that consistently underperform compared to their traditional public school peers.
Basically, the study found that online (a.k.a., cyber) charters are consistently terrible in Pennsylvania. Elementary school charters generally do better than public elementary schools, but middle and high schools do about the same. They also report a wide variability between non-virtual schools, so all not all charters are created equally. Some are lousy and some are great. The lesson to a parent looking for a school–do your research–don’t expect a charter school to be better than a traditional public school just because of the label. via The Quick & the Ed, “Poor Results for Pennsylvania Online Charter Schools.”