Rockville, Md. – A new report compiling several studies of charter schools in New Mexico–including elementary, middle, high, and dual language schools–observes some promising trends for college enrollment, amidst other mixed findings. Conducted for Arnold Ventures by Abt Associates, the New Mexico Charter School Study: Findings Report collates the results of Abt’s evaluation of numerous charter schools in the state, several of which employ a whole-school dual language model. The study also created multiple logic models for use by practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, and led to ideas for making enrollment in charters schools more equitable.
New Mexico’s charter school landscape is unique: the schools are largely single-site, grass roots institutions run by independent governing councils, whereas in most states, individual organizations manage or run multiple charter schools using a common educational model. Additionally, the state is unusual due to its minority majority population and its large number of charter schools in rural areas. Nevertheless, some of the report’s findings warrant a closer look in the context of the broader conversation on charter schools and dual language education:
1. The charter school lottery study included 10 schools and found no statistically significant impacts on the measured student academic outcomes for elementary-aged and middle school-aged students, nor on college enrollment for high school-aged students.
2. The charter school quasi-experimental study included 21 schools and focused on the effect of continual attendance at a charter school versus continual attendance at a non-charter school. The results were mixed, suggesting high school charters increased college enrollment but elementary charters decreased mathematics achievement, relative to comparison students.
3. The dual language quasi-experimental study focused on the effect on students’ English Language Arts (ELA) performance after five years of dual language education at a charter school compared to five years of standard instruction at a non-dual language school. All of the schools in this study were located in the Albuquerque area. Abt’s findings suggest that the sub-group of English learners who continuously attend a school-wide dual language charter school perform similarly to or better in ELA than English learners who continuously attend non-dual language schools. However, approximately half of all English learners in this study were only enrolled in a dual language charter school. for two school years or less (48 percent).
4. Principal-reported language skills improved dramatically for students who attended dual language schools for five years. While principals reported only about 15 percent of kindergarteners were proficient at grade level in oral Spanish, that number swelled to 75 percent by fifth grade. The principal-reported growth was similarly dramatic for written Spanish, increasing from approximately 5 percent in kindergarten to approximately 64 percent in fifth grade.
5. The studies produced tips for making enrollment more equitable:
- Ensure families know schools are tuition free;
- Invest in transportation to improve access;
- Prioritize the creation of charter schools in census tracts where economically disadvantaged and minority students reside;
- Support community groups focused on educating disadvantaged populations; and
- Allow charter schools to hold lottery slots for targeted students, for example English learners in dual language charter schools.
“This study offers insight to New Mexico and national policymakers alike about the strengths and weaknesses of charter schools as a policy solution for addressing long-standing achievement gaps in our nation’s schools,” said Abt’s Project Director, Rachel McCormick.
About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a global consulting and research firm that uses data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. From combatting infectious disease and conducting rigorous program evaluations, to ensuring safe drinking water and promoting access to affordable housing—and more—we partner with clients and communities to tackle their most complex challenges. https://www.abtassociates.com