CREDO Briefing for Elected Officials Provides Context – and the Story Behind the Numbers

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

July 19, 2013

By Rebeca Nieves Huffman, DFER Illinois State Director

Last week, our DFER-IL team hosted a briefing to give elected officials a chance to learn more about the Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO)’s update to their 2009 report on the quality of public charter schools in Illinois and the nation.

The 2009 study caused some controversy because it found a wide variance in charter school quality that, when aggregated, showed students in public charters were not performing as well as students in traditional public schools. But CREDO’s 2013 update shows a dramatic improvement in public charter school performance, with many students actually gaining days of learning compared to their traditional public school peers. These findings matter tremendously because they validate what is working and provide a reality check on what we can do better to improve the charter sector.

Presenters included Macke Raymond, Director of the CREDO Center at Stanford University, and Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and Chair of the Illinois Charter School Commission. At the briefing, Raymond and a CREDO colleague gave elected officials in attendance the context behind the study, and the briefing provided a forum for candid conversation about charter performance and the policy and political challenges that must be addressed to ensure there are high-quality options for students, families and communities.

The 2013 CREDO study found that in the 26 states studied, students in public charter schools overall are outperforming their traditional public school peers in reading, adding an average eight days of learning per year, and the performance gap with their traditional public school peers in math has closed. The gains are even better for some Latino and African-American public charter school students.

So, let’s break the numbers down for our state where data show both promising findings and areas for concern.

  • The typical Illinois public charter student has greater learning gains than their traditional public school counterpart: two weeks in reading and one month in math.
  • Black students in poverty have higher learning gains in reading at public charters than at traditional public schools.
  • Hispanic students in poverty have higher learning gains in math at public charters than at traditional public schools.
  • Some of Illinois’ public charters have below-average growth and below-average achievement.

The Illinois study shows that while the outlook is encouraging for these schools in our state, there is still much work to be done to help our students achieve at the highest levels. While there is a decent baseline for charter school quality in Chicago, there is less so in the rest of state overall, and public charters in Illinois are in substantial need of stronger oversight. Those charters that consistently show low growth and low achievement gains will continue to hold back the impact of strong public charters’ on students and communities if we do not take action.

We truly appreciate our speakers at our recent panel and applaud the state and city officials who made time for a critical and far-ranging conversation with experts in the field.  We hope what they learned and discussed at the event can be a marking post for the work and opportunities ahead to ensure all students have access to a high-quality education.

Charter School Performance in Illinois–CREDO from Angela Rudolph

On a related note, I want to send out my sincere thanks to staffers and our intern Josh Sosa for their support, and for their thirst for information.

For the last 10 years, Rebeca has worked across the country for organizations with national scopes and local reach into many states, so she is thrilled to apply her national experience in her home turf as the Illinois State Director of Democrats for Education Reform. Read more about Rebeca here.