Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has a new study out finding urban charter schools outperform traditional public schools (TPS) in urban areas.
The results are the latest in mounting evidence that many charter schools provide tremendous benefit to students — particularly those located in urban areas.
“The charter school sector has gotten to a point of maturity where it’s dominated by established charters that have stood the test of time and are operating a lot more efficiently and effectively for kids, and so we’re starting to see now this general positive impact of charters on student achievement,” Patrick Wolf, PH.D., a distinguished professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, told Business Insider.
The study looked at 41 urban areas in 22 states. Here’s what it found:
- 26 regions post learning gains for charter school students that outpace their TPS counterparts
- 4 regions have equivalent learning gains
- 11 regions have smaller gains for charter schools
- 23 regions demonstrate larger learning gains than their TPS peers
- 8 regions have equivalent learning gains
- 10 regions have smaller gains for charter schools
These results translate to urban charter students receiving:
- roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in maths
- roughly 28 additional days of learning per year in reading
These results may appear stark, especially when looking to the improvement of urban charter schools over time.
Wolf feels the sector has improved dramatically over the past five years.
“You had these charter management organisations that were just kind of small players trying out experimental approaches to education like four or five years ago, and their models worked and so now they are replicating them and they are becoming a larger share of the charter sector and I think that’s one of the factors that’s driving this overall improvement,” he said.
The study also acknowledged that not all of the findings were particularly rosy for the charter movement. It was candid about shortcomings of charter schools, particularly with regard to the charters evaluated in the study that performed worse than traditional public schools.
“Despite the overall positive learning impacts, there are urban communities in which the majority of the charter schools lag the learning gains of their TPS counterparts,” the study noted, “some to distressingly large degrees.”
And certain groups of students didn’t see any benefit from going to a charter school. For example, every subgroup in the study showed improvement in charter schools, except for the “…negative impact on maths and reading growth experienced by White students enrolled in urban charter schools and for Native American students in maths.”
In spite of these instances where charter schools underperformed compared to TPS, the CREDO study suggests that the urban charter schools evaluated in the study should be used as models for other school districts to help the most disadvantaged student populations.
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