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Los Angeles charter groups give students two months’ more math learning than other LA public schools, analysis of new CREDO data finds

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | June 19, 2017



*UPDATED

Students in Los Angeles’ 13 largest charter school networks are gaining an average of 50 additional days of learning in math and 24 days in reading compared to other LA public school students, according to an analysis of data in a new Stanford University report.

The top four LA charter networks in learning gains were:

  1. Celerity Educational Group
  2. KIPP LA Schools
  3. Fenton Charter Public Schools
  4. Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC).

Celerity’s students made the most math gains — the equivalent to 120 additional days of learning — and KIPP LA’s students gained the most in reading — 90 days.

(Celerity’s parent organization was raided by federal authorities earlier this year, following an investigation by LA Unified’s Office of Inspector General and reports by the district’s charter schools division concerning fraud, fiscal mismanagement and misuse of public money meant for schoolchildren. No federal charges have been filed, and a spokesman said Celerity remains unclear on what the federal investigation entails.)

Ten of the 13 largest charter groups had more learning days on average, but three charter groups had fewer days of learning than other public schools in LA. They are:

  1. Bright Star Schools
  2. Synergy Academies
  3. Magnolia Public Schools

The new report by the Stanford-based Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) on charter management organizations analyzed the academic progress of students in one academic year, studying 240 charter management organizations (CMOs) in 26 states, obtaining data from 3.7 million students.

Two-thirds of American charter schools exist as single independent nonprofit organizations.

A student reads at a PUC charter school in LA. (Courtesy: PUC)

However, 20 percent of CMOs operate multiple schools.

The report also looked at “super networks,” large charter networks which span across large physical areas often in multiple states. KIPP LA Schools was the only nonprofit organization in a super network in LA. Not all super networks showed positive gains. For instance, the for-profit chain K12 Inc, a national network of virtual schools, showed negative effects on student learning in both math and reading. The report found that online charter schools have “abysmal” performance in math and a “negative” effect on students’ reading levels.

For-profit charter schools were less likely to improve student achievement than nonprofit charter schools or traditional public schools, the study found.

Nationwide, nonprofit charter schools offer their students the equivalent of 23 more days of math instruction and six more days of reading instruction than for-profits, the report found.

The study found that students attending a public school operated by a non-profit charter “super network” such as KIPP Schools for longer periods of time have stronger growth.

The study also found that schools in charter networks that are supported by the Charter School Growth Fund, a national nonprofit that supports charter schools to help expand them into multi-school networks, had even greater gains.

Besides KIPP, which has 13 schools in South and East LA, the other CMOs in LA receiving funds from the Charter School Growth Fund are Aspire’s 11 schools, mostly in Southeast LA, and Bright Star’s eight schools.

Aspire Public Schools had 30 days of additional learning in math and 10 days in reading, but Bright Star Schools had negative numbers, showing 30 fewer days of learning in math and 15 fewer days in reading, compared to other CMOs. KIPP LA had the larger gains, with the equivalent to almost six additional months of learning in math and four and a half months in a half of three months in reading, based on 20 school days of learning in a month.

The report found that “super networks” have “the potential to spread proven, effective practices across a larger portion of the community.” In KIPP’s case, each of its regional clusters, such as KIPP LA Schools, have operational policies that are tailored to the specific needs of students in that region. It said their large management structure allows them to create student academic growth across their network.

KIPP LA serves 5,750 students, 90 percent of them low income, 74 percent are Latinos, 24 percent are English learners, and 11 percent receive special education services.

To calculate its data, CREDO constructed a “virtual twin” for each charter student by drawing on the available records of traditional public school students with identical traits and identical or very similar prior test scores who were enrolled in traditional schools that the charter students would have likely attended if they were not in their charter school.


Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation and the Fisher Fund supported the CREDO report and also provide financial support to The 74, the parent of LA School Report.

* This article was corrected as it included a CMO that is not located in LA.

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