Charter Quality and Parental Decision Making with School Choice

Record: Erik A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Steven G. Rivkih, Gregory F. Branch, “Charter Quality and Parental Decision Making with School Choice” in Journal of Public Economics (2007): 823-848. [Article]

Summary: Charter schools have become an increasingly popular form of education. Education reformers have seen charter school as a great opportunity for change, however, the amount of credible research is lacking concerning the difference between the quality of charter and public schools. Using data from the state of Texas, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) and the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), the authors created mathematical charts and explanations to quantify the quality of charter and traditional public schools.

In order to receive a charter status, an educational plan needs to be set in place and a certain number of students must be enrolled into the school. Therefore, parents need to be encouraged to send their child to this new school, which says a lot about the family and the quality of a charter school. A charter school is measured by their students’ academic performance in mathematics and reading, and usually measured in the form of academic assessment like standardized test. Texas hosts three types of charter schools, but the authors only take note of one: open enrollment schools.

These open enrollment charter schools are government funded and many students attend these schools. Ethnicity plays a large role in school attendance, as black students are more likely to attend charter schools. White students are extremely underrepresented. Hispanics are in the middle— attending both charter and public schools. In terms of academic achievement, high black enrollment calls for a decrease in achievement; however, this is due to the collection of data in the first or second year of operation. The authors conclude in their data that it takes about 4-5 years for a new charter school to begin showing signs of increased academic achievement, which is remarkably higher than new public schools. Therefore, charter schools are not only another academic choice for parents to choose from; they are actual competition for public schools that may be academically below charters in the future. However, when it comes to parental decision in the matter of their child’s education, parents from low income areas tend to be less informed or interested in the quality of the schools education due to lack of connection and understanding politics. Overall, when it comes to choosing a school, whether it is a charter or a public school, academic achievement is key. Although charter schools have a difficult start and perform below average, they will eventually increase academically.

Appraisal: As interesting as this information is, reading this material was extremely dull and lacked creativity. I understand the reason for thoroughly explaining the mathematical equations behind the data (being that it is from an economics journal) but they fell short in their execution. The title and introduction suggests that the authors want to measure the quality of charter schools, however they try to do so quantitatively through math— which did not work. I appreciate the attention made to parental decision and the difficulty of starting a charter school, but the overuse of mathematical equations and terms made it difficult to stay attentive. Overall, they failed to truly express the quality of charter schools.