Book Reviews

Charter School Outcomes

edited by Mark Berends, Matthew G. Springer and Herbert J. Walberg, Routledge, New York, N.Y., 2007, 328 pp., $125 hardcover, $79.95 softcover

Most researchers hope to contribute additional knowledge to their field to benefit the public good, and nowhere is this more evident than in the research on school choice issues. Whether one agrees with market-like competition among public schools, it’s essential school leaders be able to argue their case based on authentic and rigorous research.

In Charter School Outcomes, editors Mark Berends, Matthew Springer and Herbert Walberg have brought together a number of eminent researchers in the field of school choice for the purpose of understanding the growth, goals and outcomes of the charter school movement.

The contributors place their emphasis on methodology of research, substantive findings, and implications for policy and practice. While the number of valid studies is increasing as the charter school movement matures, these authors contend far too many of these studies ask the wrong question: Do charter schools work? The right question, they claim, needs to be: Under what conditions do charter schools work?

Each of the book’s three sections — assessing teaching and learning in charter schools; finance, governance and law; and charter school effects on student achievement — begins with an introduction that summarizes the themes and major findings of each chapter.

Charter School Outcomes is the first book in an anticipated series from Research on School Choice, sponsored by the National Center on School Choice, a research consortium headed by Vanderbilt University. Not surprisingly, a number of the invited authors refer to their own quantitative research data. To some, this may seem daunting at first, but to the publisher’s credit, the data are presented in an accessible, easy-to-read manner.

Reviewed by Valerie A. Storey, assistant professor and co-coordinator of educational leadership program, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.