Giving Compass' Take:

• Boston charter schools implement strict discipline policies and set high expectations for their students. Researchers found that these charters schools are better at raising test scores and student achievement than public schools. 

• Is it possible for other schools to replicate this successful charter school model? What role can education funders play in strengthening and supporting charter networks?

• Read more Boston charter schools replicating their model of success. 

Research sometimes shows that charter schools are better at raising student achievement than traditional public schools. But many charter schools get about the same results and sometimes charter schools do worse. Since charter schools are funded by public tax dollars, it’s important to have a way to decide which ones to open.

A new Boston study suggests a possible path forward: allow only charter schools that can prove they are better than traditional public schools to expand. That might sound like common sense, but many states and districts don’t have such stringent standards. The study found that, at least in Boston, proven charter schools continued to produce outsized test score gains for students even as they added campuses and served more students.

“We see something that worked,” said Sarah Cohodes, a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and one of the study’s three authors. “Authorizing charter schools is supposed to be a rigorous process but different authorizers have different philosophies about the best way to do that. To our knowledge, Massachusetts is the only state that has this proven provider policy. This is a very promising path.”

The study by Cohodes and two other academic researchers tracked what happened in Boston after 2010, when the state allowed more charter schools to open. The charter sector doubled, enrolling more than 30 percent of the city’s sixth graders, for example. But the state was very choosy about which new schools it permitted, approving only those charters with a proven track record of raising academic achievement. In the case of Boston, those schools subscribed to a “no excuses” philosophy. The schools tended to combine strict discipline with high expectations, increased time in school, frequent testing and tutoring along with standardized practices for hiring and training teachers. They largely enrolled low-income students of color.

Read the full article about charter schools in Boston by Jill Barshay at The Hechinger Report.