Research News

Principals do not feel competition from charter schools

Marisa Cannata
Marisa Cannata (Steve Green / Vanderbilt)

Many advocates for school choice argue that the competition created by giving parents multiple options of schools for their children will improve education in traditional public schools. The latest research brief, How do Principals Respond to Charter School Competition?, released by the National Center on School Choice examines the factors which contribute to principals’ perceptions of competition from charter schools and the effect this perception has on promoting changes in leadership behavior. Responses include principals from public, private and magnet schools.

Key findings:

  • Principals perceived little competition from charter schools affecting either their financial resources or their recruitment of teachers and students.
  • When a school has more charter schools in close proximity, principals perceived a more negative effect of charter schools on their ability to attract and retain teachers and students.
  • Principals’ perception of charter school competition was not related to the ways they spend their time.

The authors’ found that the closer a charter school is, geographically, to other schools the more likely principals are likely to be influenced by competition reinforces previous findings about the importance of this factor. They argue this raises issues for policymakers in considering charter school policies in rural areas, where schools are more likely to be farther apart.

They also point to the need for more research to examine the broad mechanisms of charter school competition effects that explores additional measures of principal and teacher behavior in response to charter school competition.

This brief is based on a paper by Marisa Cannata which is included in the book, “School Choice and School Improvement,” co-authored by Cannata, Ellen Goldring and Mark Berends and released in March 2011 by Harvard Education Press.