New Center for Ed Reform Research Compiles Charter School Closure Data

Not long ago I told you how the number of Colorado students enrolling in charter schools was rising quickly. This followed closely on the heels of a national study debunking anti-charter mythology and showing where the real strengths of this public education option tend to stand.

One of the oft-cited advantages of charters is the greater level of accountability that allows them to be closed down much more easily than other public schools when they aren’t working as they should. Until now, though, I’m not aware of any comprehensive data telling just how many charters have closed over the course of nearly 20 years since the first states adopted a law.

The Center for Education Reform finds that 15 percent of all American charter schools that ever existed — 1,036 out of about 6,700 — have closed for a variety of reasons. CER’s original research breaks down the frequency of these different reasons as follows:

  • Financial (41.7%)
  • Mismanagement (24.0%)
  • Academic (18.6%)
  • District Obstacles (6.3%)
  • Facilities (4.6%)
  • Other / Unknown (4.8%)

The authors of the report make a salient point:

A closure rate of 15 percent is nothing to boast about. Yet it is still lower than the small business failure rate and dramatically higher than the percentage of conventional or traditional public schools ever closed.

State-by-state closure rates are not included in CER’s breakdown. But every individual closure is listed, 16 in Colorado over the course of time. It seems like that would make Colorado’s charter closure rate lower than the national average of 15 percent, but I defer to Denise at Colorado Charters for her insights on the new CER research.