Unionizing has the potential to improve, not hinder student performance in charter schools, Chalkbeat reports in its coverage of a new study from researchers at the U.S. Military Academy.
The study, published in the September issue of Economics of Education Review, finds that unionization is linked with increases in students’ mathematics scores, but has little effect on students’ performance in English language arts. To measure the impact, the researchers compared test score trends in California charter schools that unionized between 2003 and 2013, to those that didn’t unionize during those years.
The study also suggests that more charter schools are unionized than most people think. As of 2013, 277 of the 1,127 charter schools in California were unionized and teaching about a third of the state’s charter school students, the article says.
While the National Education Association issued a policy statement this year taking a hard line against “unaccountable charters,” some local affiliates have been working to welcome charter school teachers into their unions. The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, represents educators in 231 charter schools in 15 states, according to The Washington Times.
Many charter school supporters have suggested in the past that unionizing would limit charter schools' flexibility to try innovative models and practices — one of the reasons why they were created in the first place. These findings from California, however, might lead more schools to consider joining unions. The researchers, however, were unable to identify the reasons why students’ test scores improved after teachers unionized, showing that more research in other parts of the country will likely be necessary to further understand the impact of unionizing.