Summary of charter school research finds positive academic results for charter school students

Jun 3, 2013 | Blog

There are mainly positive results for students who attend public charter schools compared with traditional public schools, a summary of current research on public charter schools concludes.

The report, published by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, shows that public charter schools are outperforming comparable traditional public schools in overall student achievement, with the strongest positive effects in elementary school reading and middle school math. Further, the analysis shows that the positive effect of charter schools was “relatively large when compared with other school reform efforts, such as reducing class size.”

The report summarizes studies released from 2010-2013 that focused on charter schools across the United States. Researchers looked at KIPP schools and CMOs nationally, in addition to charter schools in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York City, Utah, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. Out of 14 studies, 13 found that students posted greater academic growth in their charter schools than their peers did in traditional schools over the same period of time. Also consistent across the studies was the finding that charter schools gave an advantage to historically underserved populations, including black, Hispanic, high-poverty, English language learning, and special education students.

These studies included findings that charter schools in cities have an even greater positive impact on students than charters in non-urban areas. In a 2012 study focused on Massachusetts, researchers found that, while charter students overall did “reasonably well,” urban lottery public charter schools boosted scores significantly, while non-urban charter schools appeared to “degrade performance.”

The 2013 study from Michigan also shows that the vast majority of charter schools perform better, or as well as traditional schools, in reading and math. The study notes: “At the school level, on average, thirty-five percent of the charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains compared to their district school counterparts in reading, while only two percent of charter schools had significantly lower learning gains. In math, forty-two percent of charter schools studied outperformed their district school counterparts, with only six percent performing worse.”

Overall, researchers conclude that the charter school studies of the past three years “provide evidence that charter schools are providing excellent learning opportunities for students.”