Jordan High School, located in South Central LA, is one of two sites served by MAPS. It’s also one of the lowest performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, leading to a dramatic intervention So, when it was announced that the public high school would change into three distinct charter school campuses next year, doubts abounded as to the effectiveness of implementing such a decision.
Studies have been conducted on existing charters already, measuring their students’ performance in relation to those in local public schools. However, these studies have been criticized on the basis of contradictory results; it seems that charters are difficult to gauge, especially when including different states as well as district levels.
For example, the following two prominent studies illustrate divergent findings. One, compiled by Margaret Raymond of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes in Stanford, states that charter schools have results largely similar to or worse than normal public schools. However, students who attend charter schools for more than one year tend to do better. Her study spanned 15 states, with charters in some states achieving drastically higher or lower test scores than others. California was among the list of states that showed little to no difference between charter and public school test scores.
Another study conducted by Stanford economist Caroline Hoxby states that charter school students in New York City outperformed similar students in public schools. Students in this city were granted admission to charters by lottery- Hoxby measured the academic performance of students that had applied and been accepted to those who were not.
The studies suggest that a conclusive answer to the question of charter school effectiveness cannot be reached. Many variables affect each charter campus, from the differing educational philosophies of their governing organizations to resource provisioning, so that results cannot be quantified accurately across the board.
And it doesn’t help that the officials behind the change in Jordon have not yet provided any concrete details about the restructuring of the school. Does that say anything? Also, if three separate outside organizations (the Green Dot Public Schools, Alliance for College Ready Public Schools and Partnership for L.A. Schools) are coming together on this one project, won’t there be conflicting interests that affect student performance?
It seems that the future of Jordan High School cannot be readily predicted. As a current MAPS volunteer, all I feel we can do is wait. For details, for answers, and for results. It might be when the school reopens in Fall 2011 that we see whether students really benefit from these dramatic changes.