One of the biggest problems in analyzing the performance of charter school students versus traditional public school students is finding an appropriate comparison sample of traditional public school students for the study.
To date, one of the best research approaches to deal with that problem takes advantage of the fact that many charter schools are so popular that they have to run random lotteries to select new students. That random lottery process creates a split sample that can be researched to see how students who get admitted into charter schools compare to those who lose the lottery and have to enter a traditional public school.
By the end of 2012, at least nine lottery-based studies of charter schools had been released, and you can find a nice summary of that research in this article from the Jay Greene Blog.
Here is the final comment in Greene’s blog:
“Altogether, the best research tells a consistent story: charter schools are working. In order to find much evidence to the contrary, you’ll need to dig into third or fourth tier research. And you’ll need to invent a justification to ignore the random assignment literature, though you probably shouldn’t bother. Relying solely on third-rate research simply says that you were never interested in evidence in the first place.”
So, the best study method currently available on charter schools shows these schools of choice produce for students, especially underprivileged kids in urban settings. Furthermore, it is not hard to find research that challenges the performance of charter schools, but the Green Blog at least considers such research to be “third-rate,” lacking in good evidence. In the end, the best studies consistently show charters are effective. That’s why we badly need them in Kentucky.