Differences in Connecticut mastery test scores and student perceptions of school quality between public and charter schools
Charter schools began operation in 1992. Numerous studies have been conducted on charter schools nationally and demonstrated the difficulty in designing studies that can be applied broadly to charter schools. Charter schools are extremely diverse in their founding, mission, curriculum, pedagogy, administration, and state governance legislation. Charter school accountability studies are driven by public expectations of improved student achievement and by market analogy and market driven reform efforts. Charter school studies reflect both public and private interests from a variety of perspectives, designs, and intent, and usually do so without regard to the value of mission, pedagogy, or perceptions of quality of those they serve.
The purpose of this study was to assess differences in middle school student achievement and perceptions of school quality. A quasi-experimental pre-test posttest control group design with random selection from four northeastern middle school populations was used. Two experimental groups attended public charter middle schools for 3 years and 2 control groups attended public middle schools for 3 years. All four groups were administered achievement pretests and posttests in reading, writing, and mathematics over a 2 year span. The literature suggests charter school experiences, relative to public school, yield above normal gains during the elementary years; no gains during the middle school years, and a drop in achievement during high school years. This study supported the literature with respect to the middle schools as no achievement gains were found for middle school students who participated in charter schools.
This study also supported previous research studies about student perceptions of school quality. Significant differences were found between students' perceptions about their experiences in public and charter middle schools. School quality construct factors of Appeal, Choice, and Meaningfulness emerged as significant differences between students in public and charter middle school and found to be higher in charter school students.
0288: Educational evaluation