District or Charter Schools in the District of Columbia?

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

DC’s NAEP numbers allowed for some additional controls to be introduced when comparing charter and district schools than I was able to do with the Milwaukee comparison. The following chart shows the percentage of general education program students who qualify for a free or reduced lunch scoring “Basic or Better” on the 2011 NAEP exams. Special education students, ELL students and middle/high income students are not included in order to get a quick closer to apples to apples comparison.

Now of course for a real apples to apples you need a random assignment study, but those have been done and find results favorable to charter schools. This chart doesn’t address the topic of valid stastical significance, but rather whether the differences are meaningful.

Considering that charters get far less money that DCPS per pupil and show higher levels of academic achievement, this looks to be a success, albeit both the blue and the red columns leave much to be desired. The red columns leave much more to desired however, especially when you consider that that they are wallowing in money.

3 Responses to District or Charter Schools in the District of Columbia?

  1. edthinktank says:

    Something to consider …..

    If many of those students who attend charters have parents more concerned about their education than those who attend District schools, then the results would have little to do with the differences between schools.

  2. matthewladner says:


    Sure- that is why you need random assignment studies of the sort linked to in the post. In those studies you take the school lotteries and compare winners to losers.

  3. Mike says:

    There is also a survivor bias that helps charter schools and hurts the public system. It is fairly easy to dump a ‘problem’ student back to the public system.

    In DC you wil NEVER get a randomized assignment trial. Charters specifically exist to allow parents (higher SES families) to self-select into successful charter schools.

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