Charters and disadvantaged students

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We’ve had some long discussions with legislators and the media over the past few years about “disadvantaged students” and how they fare at charters. As we often note, the number of poor and minority students in charters are higher on statewide comparisons; and they are well within the range on “sending” district to charter comparisons. And their students by and large do far better those in district schools.

But the question raised during the recent legislative debate was, well, how about Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Special Needs (SPED) kids. A new study out by Angrist, Dynarski, Kane, Pathak and Walters takes a micro-look at this question by focusing on the KIPP Academy in Lynn, a school that is mostly Hispanic and has a high concentration of LEP and SPED students. What they found was:

overall gains of 0.35 standard deviations in math and 0.12 standard deviations in reading for each year spent at KIPP Lynn. LEP students, special education students, and those with low baseline scores benefit more from time spent at KIPP than do other students, with reading gains coming almost entirely from the LEP group.

Are they benefiting from some school switching? No.

KIPP Lynn lotter winners were much less likely to change schools than those who lost the lottery.

This analysis is for one school only – so no general takeaways can be drawn from it. That said, it would be helpful to do more of this sort of study, so as to understand the opportunity for improvement for these populations, and which charters (and charter models) are getting it done.