CREDO Releases New Study on Michigan Public Charter Schools

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CREDO released a new study on Michigan public charter schools today – and the research shows that public charter school students perform better than those in traditional public schools.

Beyond the big takeaway message, there are a lot of interesting breakouts of the data beyond the overall impact of charter schools on student performance at the state level. Look at the graph below, which includes all of the school-level data points from the study. The results are presented such that the effect sizes are compared to traditional public schools. For example, the overall Michigan results show that students in public charter schools scored roughly .06 standard deviations higher than traditional public schools in both math and reading. Each of the symbols represents a separate breakout of the data, plotting math results against reading results. Because the effect sizes are standardized, the results from different breakouts can be compared.

First of all, it should be noted that all of the effect sizes across the school characteristics are positive and statistically significant, compared with traditional public schools. Compared with the overall results for Michigan charter school students, students attending charter schools in Detroit are scoring about 50 percent higher in reading and 33 percent higher in math than the state charter average. As we’ve discussed recently, there has been a decidedly upward trend in research on charter school performance. Additionally, the results from Michigan are consistent with recent results CREDO released for Indiana and New Jersey.

CREDO’s study also shows higher effect sizes than the statewide results for students attending charter schools for two or more years, rural charter schools, elementary charter schools, and charter schools operated by for-profit management organizations (EMOs).


Source: CREDO. (2013). Charter school performance in Michigan. Stanford, CA: Author.

The results for student demographic breakouts show that African-American, Hispanic, and high-poverty students enrolled in charter schools perform better than similar students attending traditional public schools. Students categorized as English language learners (ELL) and special education perform about as well in charter schools as similar students in traditional public schools. Unfortunately, the analyses show that large achievement gaps remain for minority, poverty, ELL, and special education students in both charter and traditional public schools. Overall, charter schools are outperforming traditional public schools, but all public schools have work to do to decrease achievement gaps for all students.