Report: Three in 10 Students Attend a Charter School in Nearly 20 Districts Nationwide

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Three in 10 students attend a charter public school in 17 mostly urban school districts across the country, while three districts New Orleans, Detroit, and Flint, MI now have more than half of their students enrolled in charter schools, according to a new report released today by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The National Alliance is the nations leading nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter public school movement through researching and advocating for best practices that contribute to a healthy, effective public education system. The findings of this years annual report, A Growing Movement: Americas Largest Charter School Communities and Their Impact on Student Outcomes, will help policy makers, educators, and families make informed decisions on behalf of students.

For the first time this year, the report also analyzed student performance data from the 2014-15 school year for districts with at least a 30 percent charter school enrollment share. The results show that in districts where at least 30 percent of students are enrolled in charter schools, nearly all (14 of 16) had a higher percentage of test takers who scored proficient on state tests than did their district counterparts. Results are equally strong for charter school students who are economically disadvantaged, with those students again representing a higher percentage of students who scored proficient.

'We're pleased to see evidence that as the charter movement is growing, these schools are having a real impact in their districts," said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance. Seeing that, nearly across the board, charter schools helping more students become academically proficient than their district counterparts helps explain the overwhelming parent demand were seeing for charter schools. More than 1 million student names are on charter school wait lists across the country, and survey results tell us that 80 percent of parents would favor a charter school opening in their community. Parental desire for public school options makes a lot of sense when we see the results charter schools are delivering, and this report shows that the charter school movement is appropriately growing to respond to such demand.

According to this years report, the districts across the country where at least 30 percent of students are enrolled in charter schools are: New Orleans (92 percent); Detroit (53 percent); Flint, MI (53 percent); Washington, D.C. (45 percent); Gary, IN (43 percent); Kansas City, MO (40 percent); Camden, NJ (34 percent); Philadelphia (34 percent); Indianapolis (31 percent); Dayton, OH (31 percent); Cleveland, OH (31 percent); Grand Rapids, MI (31 percent); Victor Valley, CA (31 percent); San Antonio, TX (30 percent); Natomas, CA (30 percent); Newark, NJ (30 percent); and St. Louis (30 percent).

Los Angeles has the highest overall number of students enrolled in charter schools, with more than 156,000. During the 2015-16 school year, Los Angeles charter schools enrolled an additional 4,700 students over the previous year. New York City is second with almost 100,000 charter school students last year, nearly double its enrollment five years ago. Between 2010-11 and 2015-16, the number of charter school students in New York City has increased from nearly 39,000, to nearly 94,000 an increase of more than 54,000 students. Rounding out the top 10 districts in charter school enrollment are: Philadelphia (63,520); Chicago (59,060); Miami-Dade (58,280); Houston (55,710); Detroit (51,240); Broward County, FL (44,320); New Orleans (44,190); and Washington, D.C. (38,910). These top 10 districts serve nearly a quarter of all charter school students in the country.

Nationwide, six districts have 40 percent of their students enrolled in charter schools; 17 school districts now have 30 percent of their students enrolled in charter schools, compared to 14 the previous year; 44 districts have 20 percent of their students enrolled in charter schools; and 190 districts now have at least 10 percent of their students enrolled in charter schools, compared to 163 the previous year.

Every year, our enrollment report gives us a sense of charter school growth, but this years addition of performance data helps us see a more holistic picture of the success of the movement, said Susan Aud Pendergrass, vice president of research and evaluation at the National Alliance, and lead author of the report. Charter school growth must be about quality over quantity, and ensuring that the charter schools deliver results in order to expand. This report shows us that we are on the right track.

Additionally, several school districts made notable gains in their charter school enrollment share:

  • For the first time, Flint, MI, has more than half of its students (53 percent) enrolled in charter schools. Flint joins Detroit (53 percent) and New Orleans (93 percent) in having a more than 50 percent charter school enrollment share. Additionally, charter students in Flint outperformed their district peers on state assessments, representing 39 percent of all students who were tested, but 46 percent of those scoring proficient.
  • Camden City Schools and Newark City Schools in New Jersey both now have 30 percent of their students enrolled in charter schools. Additionally, charter school students in both districts are significantly overrepresented in the percentage of students who scored proficient on state assessments. In Camden, charter students represent only 31 percent of students who were tested, but 70 percent of those scoring proficient across the district. In Newark, charter students are 32 percent of students who were tested, and 49 percent of those scoring proficient.
  • Kansas City Public Schools surpassed 40 percent charter school enrollment, joining six school districts with at least 40 percent enrollment in charter schools. Additionally, while charter school students represent 47 percent of all students who were tested in the district, they are 56 percent of all those scoring proficient.
  • St. Louis joins 16 other districts that have at least a 30 percent charter school enrollment share. Between the 2012-13 and 2015-16 school years, the charter school enrollment share in St. Louis increased 6 percentage points, from 24 to 30 percent.

To read the full enrollment share report, click here.

About Charter Public Schools
Charter public 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 movement. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.