Middle and high school students who attended charter schools in Boston, Massachusetts showed large and significant gains in achievement scores while students in public pilot schools showed small or insignificant gains, according to the University of Michigan's Susan Dynarski during a recent presentation as part of the IES Speaker Series.
The discussion focused on Dynarski's research findings detailed in a recent paper entitled "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters and Pilots." Using data from enrollment lotteries—the process used to place students in charter and pilot schools in Boston—Dynarski and her colleagues found that the charter schools consistently outperformed their pilot school peers in student achievement scores while a small minority of pilot schools were even found to have had a negative impact on student scores.
Pilot schools are independent public schools within the Boston Public School District that share some of the same characteristics of charter schools but are covered by some collective bargaining provisions.
Dynarski listed several potential explanations for the positive charter school gains, but stressed that more research is needed before any valid conclusions could be made from the data. Among the possible reasons for the improvement according to Dynarski were smaller student-teacher ratios, younger teaching staffs, longer school days and years, and the fact that most charter schools in the study embraced the "No Excuses" education model.
This study was just the first in what Dynarski hopes will be a series of similar reports that will use data from other cities and states outside of this report. Dynarski's ultimate goal is to create a larger study that will be able to determine the relative effectiveness of different charter schools across the country.
Dr. Susan Dynarski is the principal investigator on an IES-funded project (see Project 2) that is assessing the implementation and impact of the Michigan Merit Curriculum and Promise Scholarship on student outcomes.