The recently released book by Cara Stillings Candal, The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation, examines the case of charter schools in Massachusetts. Candal is an education policy expert and a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute with an extensive background in education policy. In her book, she discusses the success of the Massachusetts charter system and the political and perceptual challenges the charter schools continue to face.
The benefits that charter schools provide to students in Boston is illustrated throughout the book. Improvements in the charter system can be seen in a study conducted by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes where they found that “the average growth rate of Boston charter students in math and reading is the largest CREDO has seen in any city or state thus far.” This growth may be contributed to the “40 days of additional learning in math and 28 days in reading compared to the schools from which students came” as found in a study conducted by MIT.
Looking through the lens of nationwide testing, specifically the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam, it can be seen that the scores of Massachusetts students in 4th and 8th grade lie above both the national average in the subjects of math and reading. With such high ranking test scores, many other states may look to the Massachusetts model of charter schools as an example. The plausibility of finding the same levels of success if the model is implemented in another state is questioned in Candal’s book as well as discussed in a podcast by the Pioneer Institute.
The evaluation of Massachusetts charter schools by Cara Stillings Candal offers an example to other states on lessons that can be learned, contains recommendations for future charter school innovation, and responds to critics of the charter school model.