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News Update

Survey details how charter schools in California, two other states responded to pandemic

After Covid closed schools in March 2020, charter schools reopened in remote learning on average in four days in California, three days in New York and only two days in Washington state. For public districts throughout California and much of the nation, it often took weeks.

To Macke Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, or Credo, and a distinguished senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, this quick turnaround underscored the advantage charter schools had in responding to sudden change during the pandemic.

“Charter schools rapidly built a structure in a time of chaos, taking just three school days, on average, to provide a remote learning program,” she said. “Their response to Covid is a natural experiment in how leaders and educators embrace the flexibility granted to them so that schooling continues and students are learning.”

Earlier this month, Credo, which has studied the performance of charter schools nationwide for two decades, released results of an extensive survey of charter schools in California, New York and Washington State on how they responded to the pandemic in the spring of 2020 and 2020-21. The 524 schools responding, which enroll 220,000 students, include 64% of New York’s 354 charter schools, all 13 of Washington’s charter schools but only 21% of California’s 1,351 charter schools. The report cautions California’s low response prevents applying the findings to charter schools as a whole in the state.

Nonetheless, the results indicate that the  charter schools surveyed were able to set clear priorities and achieve them going into remote learning and the following school year.

California charter schools listed communicating with families their top priority after switching to remote learning, and more than 60% reported increasing contacts somewhat or substantially, and about half reported increasing student feedback.

What can’t be determined by the surveys is whether charter school students fared better or worse than students in traditional schools during the pandemic. Of California charter schools, 39%  reported considerable (23%) or a substantial (16%) loss of learning time by the end of 2020-21.