I just spent some time with charter school growth numbers from 2005 to 2015.
I think these numbers are right but please do correct me if they are wrong.
I tried to look at a few data sources, and not all of them agreed, though they were roughly aligned so I feel like the below is a reasonable estimate of new school creation by year.
From 2005 to 2013, net new charter schools great at a healthy ~7% a year.
And then in the past two years the net new school growth rate has plummeted, as has the absolute number of new schools created.
In 2015, there were only 132 net new school created compared to 310 in 2006.
1. If, like me, you believe that high-quality charter schools will be a major source of increased educational opportunity, this data is probably not good news.
2. There is some chance that this most recent data is reflecting a Great Cleanup. In this last year, 272 charter schools were closed, which drove down the net new school creation (404 schools opened, which is lower than one would hope, but not catastrophically low by historical standards).
3. Interestingly enough, charter school enrollment still grew by 9% this year. This could be the result of charter schools that opened in previous years growing to full enrollment (this often takes 3-4 years); new schools are being opened in ways that aren’t showing up in the data (a middle school adds a high school under the same charter); or virtual schools distorting the school to enrollment ratio (by enrolling thousands of students). Or something else I’m not thinking of.
4. All these closures + lower rates of new school creation could just mean that the sector is taking quality much more seriously. Perhaps the result of the Great Cleanup will be that the next CREDO national study will show better results.
5. My biggest worry is that this data reflects a slowdown in entrepreneurship; that some combination of politics, regulation, national mood, vision, etc. is causing great educators to not take the jump to open an awesome school.
6. I feel a little lonely in digging through this data! When labor data is announced, you have 10,000 economists and pundits analyzing the numbers. I feel like there’s about five of us in the country who do this with charter data. Of course, I don’t expect the amount of analysis to rival national economic data, but it feels like that for a sector of this maturity there is not a ton of data analysis. And, yes, I’m now in a position to fund others to increase this capacity, so if this doesn’t get fixed I’ll share some of the blame.
Let me know if any of this data is off and I will correct it.