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Texas Public Charter School Students Display Significant Academic Gains

New research finds public charter school students see stronger academic growth the longer they attend a charter school; Results strongest for Hispanic and Low-Income students.

Washington, D.C.—A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) finds that on average, public charter school students in Texas experience stronger annual growth in reading (gaining an additional 17 days of learning) and similar growth in math compared to the educational gains of their matched peers who enroll in the district schools the charter school students would otherwise have attended. Texas charter students from low-income backgrounds also fare better than their district peers in both reading and math, as do some low-income students of color.

Regardless of income, a student’s academic growth gets stronger the longer they attend a charter school: in the second year of enrollment, a Texas charter school student gains an additional 23 days of learning in reading and 40 days of learning in math compared to their district counterparts. The third year continues this trend with charter school students achieving their strongest growth, gaining an additional 40 days of learning in reading and 46 days of learning in math.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees has released the following statement in response to the report:

“By shining a light on the public charter school movement in Texas, the esteemed researchers at CREDO have underscored what we know to be best practices in serving our students. Chief among these insights is that strong laws and accountability lead to a system of high-quality charter schools, in which even our nation’s most vulnerable students can succeed. In this case, SB2 has helped create an environment that empowers charter schools to be innovative, autonomous, and flexible enough to meet their students’ unique needs—while being held to strong accountability standards.

“This study also reveals that while many Texas charter schools are making a difference for students, results are strongest for schools belonging to a nonprofit network of charter schools—also known as charter management organizations, or CMOs. Nationally, CMOs are helping their students graduate from college at rates 3-5 times the national average for children from the lowest income families. Texas-based CMOs are contributing to this mission of getting charter graduates to-and-through college through innovative programing.  A few standouts include Yes Prep Public Schools, which has supported 46.7 percent of its graduates in earning a bachelor’s degree, and IDEA Public Schools, with 35 percent of graduates going on to graduate from a four-year college. Harmony Public Schools, a 2017 Broad Prize finalist, has helped 98 percent of their students from low-income backgrounds graduate from high school.

“And by making the distinction that public school students in brick and mortar charter schools had significant growth over their peers in brick and mortar district schools (equal to 17 days of learning in reading and 11 days in math) CREDO raises important questions about the efficacy of virtual charter schools. The National Alliance continues to push for common-sense policy recommendations to help states better hold full-time virtual charter schools accountable for student results.”

About Public Charter Schools 
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools 
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.