Florida, Arizona, and Texas are known for having large charter school markets with large variation in quality.
Taking the first letter from each state name, let’s call these the FAT states.
All told, charter sectors in FAT states serve about 750,000 students (AZ = 180,000,FL = 280,000, TX = 280,000) – or about 25% of all charter students in the country.
Results in the FAT states have been mixed.
Here is what CREDO found in 2015 when they studied Texas charter school data:
Even in urban areas, where charters usually perform the best, Texas charters lag compared to their traditional peers.
Previous CREDO studies in Arizona and Florida have found negative to mediocre results; however, more recent studies, especially those focusing on attainment, have found more positive results.
But, in terms of matched test results, the FAT states tend to poorly when compared to the charter sectors of Louisiana, Colorado, and Massachusetts.
The FAT states split the reform community.
For many of those whose posts show up on Jay Green’s blog, the FAT states are exactly what we need: high levels of entrepreneurship, disruption, and parent choice.
For many of those whose posts show up on CRPE’s blog, the FAT states have serious shortcomings: they represent the triumph of free market mania over the pragmatic restraints of quality control.
But something interesting is happening in the FAT states.
They are closing a lot of charter schools.
Last year, Florida closed 35 charter schools; Arizona closed 30 charters schools; and Texas closed 62 charter schools.
In Florida, regulators closed ~5% of all charter schools in a single year.
In Arizona, regulators closed ~6% of all charter schools in a single year.
In Texas, regulators closed ~8% of all charter schools in a single year.
These rates are higher than the national charter school closure rates of ~4%.
In the case of Texas, their closure rate was double the national average.
We will learn much from the behavior of the FAT states (the next great charter paper must be lurking in this data).
Here are questions for which I would love to know the answer:
- How do the schools that are being closed compare to district schools peers in terms of academic growth, post-secondary attainment, earnings, and parent and student satisfaction?
- Over a long-period (25 years?) is it better for a state to let a thousand flowers bloom and then clean up the sector or to put on tight quality controls at the outset and then allow for measured replication? Or somewhere in-between?
- How does the size of a charter sector affect its political support in the state legislature?
- How does the quality of a charter sector affect its political support in the state legislature?
- How does support in the state legislature affect quality control measures?
I’m sure there is more to be mined from the behavior of the FAT states.