Are Charter Schools Better?

Charter schools have grown in popularity in recent years as parents look for ways to improve their child's educational experience. But just how much of a difference can a school make? A University of Houston professor researched the issue and has some interesting findings. Bill Stamps has more.
The average charter school in America has a waiting list of more than one hundred. The Yes Preps here in Houston have a waiting list in the thousands. They're perceived as being better schools — but is it true? When a University of Houston professor researched the issue, he found no difference in test scores, but here's what he did find.

"Disciplinary infractions, the times students essentially get suspended fell by between one half and zero point eight on average, which is a really substantial drop and attendance went up by about two point three percentage points on average."

Professor Scott Imberman looked at the records of a large urban school district with around 200-thousand students. What he found was charter school students had better attendance and got into less trouble.

"If the charter schools are able to improve student's behavior then that's in important thing that needs to be taken into consideration, as well as the test scores and the students grades."


But is it the school that's making the difference or something else, like having a better crop of students or parents to deal with? Chris Barbic is the founder Houston's Yes Prep Charter School. He thinks it's the size that gives charter schools and advantage.

"I think the fact that charter schools tend to be smaller than traditional public schools allows for teachers and students to build much stronger relationships than what you find in traditional public schools. I think as a result of those relationships, there is more of a motivation for kids to want to be at school and there's less of a probability that kids are going to be more disruptive in class because of those strong relationships."

Although professor Imberman's study didn't find a difference in scores; when it came to charter schools, other studies have found big differences. Barbic says not only does his students attend school more and get in less trouble, but they also are higher achievers and go on to college.

"What you're seeing with the study is charter schools are better at establishing the necessary conditions for learning, which is a kids has to be at school and has to be focused on not be goofing off in class."


Professor Imberman's findings will be published in the Journal of Economics and Statistics.