Chartering The Course: California Charter Schools Show Narrowing of African American Student Achievement Gap

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One of the most pressing issues of our time is the achievement gap between African American students and their White and Asian peers. There is hope however for African American families in California that their children can find quality educational options to meet their needs.

This week, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) released the Chartering and Choice as an Achievement Gap-Closing Reform research report, which details the performance and enrollment trends of African American students in both charter public and traditional public schools. The results show that African American students are enrolled at higher rates in charter public than traditional public schools at all grade levels, in some cases at close to twice the rate, and are experiencing better outcomes, in spite of having the same rates of parent education and student retention as their traditional public school peers.

In fact, charter public schools are effectively accelerating the performance of African American public school students, consistently earning higher Academic Performance Index (API) scores and proficiency rates statewide across subjects in many urban districts.

When using CCSA’s own performance metric, the Similar Students Measure (SSM), which eliminates the impact of student background on performance, charter public schools serving African American students were more than three times as likely as traditional public schools to consistently outperform their predicted performance in a single year and over time.

And, while charters make up only 9% of schools statewide, they represent 39% of highly effective schools for African American students.

The report also features case studies of highly effective charter schools in three major areas: Watts Learning Center in Los Angeles, KIPP Bridge in Oakland, and PS7 in Sacramento. While different, their methodology and approach to serving their students had common denominators from which all public schools can learn. In fact, most of the best practices implemented at these three charter schools have been well documented in scholarly literature, and are readily available.

As laboratories of innovation, California’s highly effective charter schools can demonstrate proven paths to success that should be replicated in all public schools, and at a national level.

To read the report, please visit

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