Advocates Expected To Ask For More Financial Support
April 7, 2005
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
Children in Connecticut's
charter schools generally are making faster gains on state tests
than other public school students from the same cities and towns,
according to a study being released today.
Although there were considerable differences in performance,
including some schools where students lost ground, the overall
average scores showed encouraging improvement at most of the
experimental schools, a study by Western Michigan University
"Charter schools in Connecticut are performing well," said
Gary Miron, the lead researcher.
Of six states where Western
Michigan researchers have studied charter schools, "the results from Connecticut are the most
positive and promising for charter schools we have seen," Miron
wrote in his report.
The report was commissioned by the Connecticut Coalition for
Achievement Now, an advocacy group supporting charter schools,
and is certain to be used in lobbying the state legislature for
greater financial support for the schools.
A bill before the state legislature would increase funding for
charter schools, provide money for buildings and allow officials
to adjust enrollment limits.
Fourteen small public charter schools operate in Connecticut
under a 9-year-old state charter law. Charter schools are part
of a national reform movement designed to encourage innovation
by allowing educators to operate without many of the regulations
governing most public schools.
Charter schools, one element of the national school reform movement,
have been supported by the Bush administration and groups supporting
Today's study examines trends on the Connecticut Mastery Test
by following progress for clusters of students over a period
of years. In most cases, the charter school students posted larger
gains than did other public school students from the same towns.
For example, on the mastery test scoring scale, fourth-graders
from Integrated Day Charter School in Norwich, Jumoke Academy
in Hartford and Side by Side Community School in Norwalk scored
more than 5 points below their public school counterparts in
mathematics in 2001, but as sixth-graders in 2003 they scored
9 points higher than other sixth-graders in Norwich, Hartford
and Norwalk, the study found.
The results are similar to those of an earlier Western Michigan
evaluation of Connecticut's charter schools done for the state
Department of Education in 2002.
"This reaffirms what we had said - that a small school
environment, flexible hiring, a longer school day, longer school
year, ability to limit class size [all] contribute to greater
academic performance," said Mark Linabury, a consultant
on charter schools for the state education department.
Tim Dutton, director of the
Bridge Academy, a college-preparatory charter high school in
Bridgeport, said charter schools "have
the advantage of being designed with a single focus and specific
mission." And they are small enough to change quickly, he
"Bridgeport has a [school] board of 12 people covering
20,000 students," he said. "I have a board of 12 covering
Across the nation, supporters and critics have clashed over
the performance of charter schools. The debate heated up with
the release of a federal study of test scores for the 2003 National
Assessment of Educational Progress showing that fourth-graders
in charter schools had lower math scores than students in regular
The Western Michigan research team said it found generally positive
results for charter schools in Connecticut and Delaware but negative
results in Michigan and mixed results in Illinois, Pennsylvania
Miron said Connecticut's results are due, in part, to a strong
oversight system by state officials. The state has closed down
some low-performing charter schools and allowed others to go
out of business.
Although the overall results were encouraging, not all charter
schools made gains on the mastery test of fourth-, sixth- and
eighth-graders or the Connecticut Academic Performance Test of
Charter school 10th-graders,
for example, produced "mixed
to negative" results in comparison with their counterparts
in other public schools, the study said.
In addition, the study said that schools met fewer than half
of the goals they identified in their own annual reports on matters
such as educational progress, racial diversity and objectives
related to the schools' missions.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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