Ranking Charter School Ecosystems: ECER 2022 measures what matters

by James Paul

Measure what matters—that’s the approach taken by Drs. Benjamin Scafidi and Eric Wearne in a groundbreaking report titled “EFI Charter School Ecosystem Rankings.” The authors use publicly available data to rank environments for charter schooling at the state level. What makes these rankings unique—and a marked improvement over other such efforts—is that they account for salient outcomes like student achievement and charter school accessibility. 

The report is grounded in a simple idea: States with charter schools that are widely available to students and produce greater learning gains are ranked high, while states with charter schools that are less available and produce smaller gains are ranked lower. 

The authors generate an index score for each state that is based on:

·       percentage of students attending charters

·       percentage of students who live near a charter

·       percentage increase in charter schools relative to the previous year

·       cohort-level learning gains 

·       value-added learning gains

States are ranked individually on each of these measures, and states are ranked overall based on their combined scores. Check out the full report to learn more about the authors’ methodology. 

What is most striking about the 2022 EFI Charter Ecosystem Rankings (ECER) is how much they diverge from other efforts to rank charter school laws. For example, the National Association of Public Charter Schools rated Washington as having the 3rd best charter law in 2020 despite having only 8 schools operating statewide. ECER accounts for the lack of charter accessibility and ranks Washington much lower. 

As Scafidi and Wearne explain in the report, ECER accounts for outputs, while previous studies mainly account for inputs. ECER emphasizes whether charter school environments are working for families—not whether they adhere to a list of subjective policies dreamed up by experts. 

Using this report as a guide, policymakers interested in expanding educational choice can emulate the laws and regulatory structures in states that have been most successful at creating a thriving environment for charter schooling.