Five important results from new charter school study for Washington state

Jun 27, 2013 | Blog

On Monday, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released The National Charter School Study 2013. It is an update and expansion of CREDO’s 2009 Multiple Choice, the first study to take a comprehensive look at the impact of charter schools on student performance.

The National Charter School Study 2013 looked at the performance of students in charter schools in 26 states and New York City. What lessons can we take from the results as we begin creating high-quality charters here in Washington? Below, we highlight five important takeaways:

1. Charter schools are succeeding in serving the students who need it most.
Low-income students and students of color in charters are surpassing their peers in traditional public schools. In fact, African-American charter school students living in poverty gained the equivalent of 29 days of learning in reading and 36 days in math over their peers in traditional public schools—in just one school year. Hispanic English-language learners saw even higher gains: 50 days of additional learning in reading and 43 days in math. These results are promising for Washington state.

2. Quality schools start with a rigorous approval process.
States that have set a high bar for those looking to open a charter school generally have good charter schools. Those that need to improve their charter schools generally need to also toughen up their authorizing. Officials in Washington have been working with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers to develop a rigorous approval process—building off lessons learned from other states and districts.

3. We must be committed to closing low-performing schools.
One-third of the improvement in charter school performance in this study was caused by the closure of 8 percent of the schools from the 2009 study. Here’s the good news for Washington state: every charter school that opens here will undergo an annual performance review. Schools not measuring up can be closed.

4. Nationally, charter schools are continuing to improve.
From a national perspective, charter schools overall have improved since the last CREDO report in 2009. That means Washington state has new opportunities to learn about what’s working in other states and districts as we look to open high-quality public charter schools over the next few years.

5. Washington state is doing this right.
We have a strong authorization process and a commitment to holding charter schools accountable for student performance. In fact, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently named Washington’s charter school law to be the third strongest in the country. Washington also has a focus on serving low-income students and students of color—those who struggle the most in our current school system.

We know charter schools are part of a range of solutions in public education. Not every student should attend a charter school, and not every parent will decide that a charter school is right for their child. But this research shows that, when done right, charter schools can be an important part of our public school ecosystem. We owe every student and family more high-quality public school options.

We’ll be sharing additional analysis of this report over the next few weeks. Stay tuned to our blog for more details.