Solving the Puzzle of Charter Schools: A New Framework for Understanding and Improving Charter School Legislation and Performance

Friday, June 5th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by Elaine Liu

Elaine Liu, Solving the Puzzle of Charter Schools: A New Framework for Understanding and Improving Charter School Legislation and Performance, 2015 Colum. Bus. L. Rev. 273 (2015).

Contributing to the controversy over charter schools are empirical studies, such as the Center for Research on Education Outcomes National Charter School Study 2013, that find that charter schools have mixed results, with some seeing better student achievement outcomes relative to traditional public schools, and others seeing worse. This Note argues that developing a new framework to understand differences in state charter school laws based on their underlying purposes helps explain the significant variation across states in charter school performance.

Based on a state-by-state analysis of charter school legislation, this Note finds that states with charter school laws generally fall into three categories: (1) “gap-closing”; (2) “libertarian-oriented”; and (3) “mixed.” The first category includes states with laws that promote charter schools focused on improving outcomes for disadvantaged and underachieving students. The second category includes states with laws that promote charter schools as a means to provide parents and local communities, rather than the government, with more choices and greater control in education. The third category encompasses those states where charter school legislation promotes both of these purposes. Furthermore, results indicate that gap-closing states generally enjoy better charter school performance outcomes than do libertarian-oriented states, and that the typical charter school law of gap-closing states differs significantly from that of libertarian-oriented states. As such, this Note proposes that states can maximize charter school student achievement by adopting features that are characteristic of gap-closing states’ charter school laws—e.g., greater restrictions on entrance into the charter school market and greater oversight of both charter school authorizers and charter schools themselves.

Read Full Article

© 2015 Elaine Liu

Author Information

J.D. Candidate 2015, Columbia Law School; A.B. 2010, Harvard University.