Most Charters Outperforming Traditional Public Schools Academically
A new study from Stanford University’s respected Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has found that students attending charter schools in Detroit are, in most cases, posting larger learning gains than their traditional public school peers. The study focused, in part, on comparing the performance of urban charter schools to traditional public schools in their community.
“Learning gains for (urban) charter school students are larger by significant amounts for Black, Hispanic, low-income, and special education students in both math and reading,”the CREDO report states in summarizing the overall results. “Students who are both low-income and Black or Hispanic, or who are both Hispanic and English Language Learners, especially benefit from charter schools. Gains for these subpopulations amount to months of additional learning per year.”
Detroit charter schools outperformed traditional public schools in both reading and math. In looking at enrollment demographics, the study found that Detroit charter enrollment is 87% students in poverty, compared to 85% in traditional schools.
In math, 60% of Detroit charter schools outperformed traditional public schools and 33% showed no statistical difference. In reading, 51% of charters outperformed, and 45% showed no statistical difference.
“When it comes to education, there is no one size fits all,” said Peter Cunningham, a former Assistant Secretary of Education who is now the Executive Director of Education Post. “Parents want options and children need them, and we know that in many places, like Detroit, it is working very well,”
Some of the study’s major overall findings include:
- Urban charter schools overall drive significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to gains in traditional schools. According to the study’s statistical analysis, urban charter students receive the equivalent of roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading than their peers in district-run schools.
- Of the urban regions studied, those posting larger learning gains in charter schools outnumber those with smaller learning gains by a ratio of 2 to 1.
- In math, 26 of 41 urban regions post learning gains for charter school students that outpace their peers in traditional schools.
- In reading, charter school students in 23 of the 41 regions demonstrate larger learning gains than their peers in district-run schools.
- Black, Hispanic, low-income, and special education students posted dramatically larger gains in both math and reading than their peers in traditional schools. Students who are both low-income and Black or Hispanic, or who are both Hispanic and English Language Learners, especially benefit from charter schools.
- Black students in poverty received 59 additional days of learning in math and 44 additional days of learning in reading.
- Hispanic students in poverty received 48 additional days of learning in math and 25 additional days of learning in reading.
- Hispanic students with ELL status received 72 days of learning in math and 79 additional days of learning in reading.
The CREDO study used information provided by states to create a “matched student database” containing data from charter records and a matched group of comparison traditional public school students over a six-year period from 2006/07 to 2011/12. Researchers matched each charter student with up to seven peer students in traditional schools based on prior test scores and demographic characteristics. The study included data from more than 80% of all charter students in the 41 urban regions in the analysis. The results were calculated in terms of standard deviations, which were then converted into “days of learning.” The study’s full report can be found here.
Education Post is a non-partisan, non-profit communications organization dedicated to building support for student-focused improvements in public education.