Charter Schools in California: A Review of Their Autonomy and Resource Allocation Practices
This report presents the results from a seven-month study of charter schools in California performed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). This study is part of a larger group of studies coordinated through Stanford University and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation.
Charter schools are nonsectarian public “schools of choice,” designed to provide an alternative to regular public schools. They are either created from scratch (“start-up”), or are converted from a regular public school (“conversion”). They are not bound by many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. This study explored differences in resource levels, resource allocation decisions, and student performance between California’s charter schools and the state’s traditional public schools. The overall purpose of the paper is summarized in the following research questions:
- To what extent are charter schools operating without traditional governing rules, and how is this independence related to academic success?
- Are the resource allocation practices observed in charter schools substantially different from regular public school practices? Is there evidence that these differing practices relate to academic success?
- Can individual charter schools be identified with especially unique resource allocation patterns? What are they doing that is different, and how do these practices appear to affect student outcomes?