Brookings: Conversion Schools More Closely Resemble Traditional Public Schools Than Start-Up Charters

News Details

Posted: April 12, 2010
National Charter School Resource Center
Focus Areas: School Turnaround
States: California
2009 Brown Center report cover

A Brookings Institution study of conversion charter schools in California found little change in student achievement scores over a two-decade period, but the report’s authors suggest those schools “look more like traditional public schools than start-up charters.”

As part of the 2009 Brown Center on Education Policy Annual Report, the Brookings Institution examined data on public schools that have been converted to charter schools in California, the state with the most and many of the oldest conversions. Data from 49 schools in 2004 and 60 schools from 2008 showed little change in student test scores in reading and math -- a finding mirrored across all low-performing schools in the “How Well Are American Students Learning?” report, released in March by the Brookings Institution.

However, compared with start-up charter schools, the study found that conversions are even more likely to be concentrated in urban areas, have larger student enrollments, and serve greater numbers of Hispanic and black students, according to Brookings. Teachers at conversions are also more experienced and more likely to hold teaching certificates, particularly in bilingual education, the report said.

“It is clear that future evaluations of charter schools must differentiate between start-ups and conversions because of the significant institutional differences between the two types of charters,” the report says. “More must be learned about conversion charters if they are to realize their promise as a tool of school reform.”

To download the 2009 Brown Center Report, click here.