Economic Snapshot | Education

It’s not academic: Why charter schools close

Snapshot  for April 15, 2009

by Joydeep Roy 

Supporters of charter schools argue that since enrollment in such schools is purely a matter of parental choice and discretion, ineffective charter schools would quickly lose their students and be forced to close down. But this does not appear to be the case. Even though most research shows that charter schools are doing, at best, only slightly better than regular public schools, less than 2% of all charters ever opened have closed due to academic reasons.

A recent report by the Center for Education Reform, a charter school advocacy group, finds that of the 5,235 charter schools opened since 1992, 657 have closed down. Of these 657 schools, only 91–or 14% (see chart)–were closed for “academic reasons,” defined as schools “whose sponsors found them unable to meet the academic goals and performance targets set by the state or written in their charter.”1 Moreover, the number of charters actually closed for academic reasons is likely to be even lower: close investigations reveal that some charters supposedly closed for academic reasons were in reality closed because of finances, mismanagement, or other organizational problems.2


1. Allen, Jeanne, Alison Consoletti, and Kara Kerwin. 2009. The Accountability Report: Charter Schools. Washington, D.C.: The Center for Education Reform. February.
2. Carnoy, Martin, Rebecca Jacobsen, Lawrence Mishel, and Richard Rothstein. 2005. The Charter School Dust-Up: Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement. Washington, D.C.:  Economic Policy Institute and Teachers College Press.

See related work on Accountability | Education | Vouchers

See more work by Joydeep Roy