Is Charter School Competition in California Improving the Performance of Traditional Public Schools?

by Richard Buddin, Ron Zimmer

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This research examines the effects of charter schools on traditional public schools. A premise of charter school initiatives has been that these schools have direct benefits for students attending these schools and indirect benefits for other students by creating competition for traditional public schools to improve their performance. Using California data, the analysis examines the responses to a survey of principals in a sample of traditional public schools. In addition, the research assesses how charter school competition affects student-level achievement trends in traditional public schools. The survey results showed that public school principals felt little competitive pressure from charters. Similarly, the student achievement analysis showed that charter competition (measured in a variety of ways) was not improving the performance of traditional public schools.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Smith Richardson Foundation and conducted by RAND Education.

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