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“Bad” Charter Schools Show No Signs of Improvement

Charter schools have received a lot of attention from the media in recent years. The movie Waiting for Superman shed light on the alternative schools as a positive possibility for solving poor education in the public school system. At the same time, many experts don’t believe they’re the answer due to their small sizes and availability, ability to bend rules like time regulations on school days and their access to both federal and outside funding.


While some argue that good charter schools could be the answer to low reading and math scores in public schools, a new study by Stanford scholars shows that this can only be an option if they start out strong in the first place. According to a report by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), a group that studies student performance and educational reform, charter schools that start bad, stay that way.


The group followed thousands of charter schools throughout their first five years. CREDO looked for performance trends, comparing early scores to ones after the charter schools matured. The results were basically the same across the board: the ones that started with high scores, still had high scores five years later. However, the trend held true for those on the opposite side of the spectrum. Charter schools that started off shaky were still low performers five years after their launch.


What does this mean for parents today? If you’re considering sending your child to a charter school, do your research. Compare test performance between the charter school and local public schools. Send your child to whichever performs better. And whatever you do, don’t listen to anyone who claims the charter school is just having a shaky start and will work out the kinks down the road. According to CREDO’s new study, they’re doomed to stay exactly where they start- bad charter schools are bad charter schools.



-“CREDO at Stanford University unveils national charter school growth and replication study.” CREDO

-“Charter school arguments.” NCSL

-“Charter schools that start bad stay bad, report says.” HuffPo

-“Parents daily news roundup.”

-Photo courtesy of criminalatt/


  1. Jose Jimenez
    May 31, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Even stupid parents can put their kids in charter schools. Many parents look at school as a babysitting service.

  2. jwb
    July 31, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Charter schools? Check the absurd salaries of the administrators of these places. They are overpaid…nepotism is rampant…they still “teach to the test” and it’s a joke at best. The answer? Better parenting….End of story. Parents who care and demand that their child go to school…respect the teachers…and focus on learning!!!! That’s the answer.

    • Mary
      August 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      JWB: Check out the absurd salaries of administrators of traditional school systems. At least if charters don’t have students that learn well, they are closed by the state. We cannot do that with traditional schools and the number of administrators making huge salaries in most traditional school systems is disgusting. The public charter schools I am familiar with do very well in teaching their students and they don’t receive much funding at all. And for those who think they are so terrible, ask yourself why there are long waiting lists for getting students into charter schools and they have to hold lotteries to secure a spot much of the time.

    • Mickey
      September 4, 2013 at 8:45 am

      That depends on the school. The one my daughter attended through junior high was excellent.

  3. Cecilia
    August 8, 2013 at 5:53 am

    Stupid parents= stupid kids

  4. waldorfteacher
    August 14, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Indeed, do your homework and check out the charter school’s reputation, talk to other parents who have been involved in the school and make sure the philosophy of the school meets your own family values.
    I work in a charter school that had low standardized test scores for a number of years – mostly because the educational philosophy of the school was against standardized testing and teachers spent little to no time preparing the students for tests. Once we began teaching test-taking skills, our standardized test scores rose by over 200 points the first year (we were REALLY low) and have continued to rise each year even though we still don’t “teach to the test” and our curriculum is heavily weighted to arts and outdoor education.

  5. A Mom
    August 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    There are good charter schools and bad charter schools. Each state that allows public charter schools has its specific standards of how they administer them. In our state we have some excellent charter schools. We have had some that have not performed well enough and they were shut down, per our state charter school laws which requires that. Would that we could shut down the traditional public schools that fail. Believe me we have several of those in this state. The highly successful charter schools in our state have very rigorous standards and use the Core Knowledge curriculum, not to be confused with the Common Core which is a lousy curriculum currently being pushed by the federal government. The charter schools in my state utilize much less money to operate so are a real bargain for the taxpayer. The administrators in traditional public schools are the ones making huge salaries. That is where the waste is in our state.

  6. KitchenSink
    September 5, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Wow – this article is lacking any sense of objectivity. Using research to tar lots of diverse organizations with a single brush is a bad idea. Do your research indeed, but don’t start with “send to the highest test scores” and don’t end with “don’t believe what they say.”

    Research, visit, feel. Get a sense of the place and the values. Trust–but verify.

  7. Willie Banks
    September 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    MCS did a touble job educating our students.
    The parent of student must understand that
    In order to compete in today’s world you must have Jesus and a good deducation.

  8. Lori
    October 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Common Core is not a curriculum, but a set of standards. Core Knowledge is a curriculum. With the Common Core standards, districts still retain local control over their curriculua. The Common Core standards were created by educators from all 50 states, not by the Federal government. The new standards will make it possible to compare outcomes from one state to another. Currently, there is no way to know if the tests in say, Arizona, and harder or easier than those in say, Alaska.

  9. Barbara
    October 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Charters in our state seem to be drawing and responding better to kids for whom traditional public school does not work well: those with learning issues and other disabilities and those at the gifted end of the spectrum. They have more flexibility to hire the appropriate staff for their populations and to offer more arts, music and other electives to help these kids build the self-esteem. It’s not just about test scores, but also keeping kids in school and wanting to learn.

  10. william Toth
    December 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Charter schools are not evil, but neither are they the panaceas and miracle solutions some see them to be. In fact, in too many cases, they are leading the way to the privitization of education, as corporations, rather than communities, are establishing them. Corporations exist for ONE purpose – PROFIT. I don’t care how many times they tell us they are non profit.

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