New CREDO Study Shows Urban Charter Schools Outperform District Peers

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A report released yesterday by The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, Urban Charter School Study Report on 41 Regions, found that public charter schools located in our nation’s largest urban districts are showing significant positive performance impacts for the most disadvantaged students. Overall, students enrolled in urban public charter schools gained 40 additional days of learning in math and 28 additional days in reading compared to their traditional public school peers. Moreover, the longer a student attended an urban public charter school, the greater the gains: Four or more years of enrollment in an urban charter school led to 108 additional learning days in math and 72 more days of learning gains in reading. Given that more than half of all charter schools are in urban areas, this is a significant finding.

The study examined traditional and charter public school data in 41 of the largest urban regions in 22 states from the 2006-07 through 2011-12 school years. The same methodology that was popularized in CREDO’s 2013 National Charter School Studymatching students on a variety of factors, including demographics, special needs, poverty level, and prior test scores—was used to create a virtual traditional public school “twin” for each charter school student.

The findings from the 41 regions show that urban charter schools are positively impacting both ends of the performance spectrum when compared to traditional public schools—with more charter schools outpacing (26 regions in math, 23 in reading), and fewer charter schools lagging below (11 in math and 10 in reading). In fact, charter schools outperform traditional schools by a two-to-one margin across these urban districts.

Further, urban public charter schools are serving disadvantaged students particularly well:

  • Hispanic English language learners showed the greatest learning gains of any student subgroup, with 72 additional days of learning in math and 79 in reading.
  • Students living in poverty gained 24 learning days in math and 17 in reading by attending an urban public charter school.
    • Black students in poverty showed gains equivalent to 59 instructional days in math and 44 days in reading.
  • Students with special needs showed learning gains equivalent to nine additional instructional days in math and 13 in reading.

There are districts with especially large gains. Charter school mathematics learning gains in the Bay Area (California), Boston, District of Columbia, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, and Newark were much stronger than traditional school results. Comparison reading gains were notable for the Bay Area, Boston, Memphis, Nashville, and Newark charter schools. New York City and South Bay, stand out for providing positive gains for their students in both math and reading and serving a student body with achievement equal to or higher than the average achievement within their state.

Public charter schools that are demonstrating marked academic gains for their students deserve every opportunity to flourish. The federal Charter Schools Program Charter Schools Program (CSP) supports the creation of new schools and the replication of charter schools that are producing results. Click here to encourage your Members of Congress to give additional funding to the CSP so that more students can benefit for a great public school education.

Nora Kern is senior manager of research at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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