Reimagining Education

More studies show benefit of charters

Three new studies are showing the continued positive impact of charter schools across the country.

The first study, from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), shows that more and more families are taking advantage of public schools of choice, whether those be charter schools or district magnate schools. The study also shows an increase in parents choosing to homeschool their students.

Several news stories have highlighted one aspect of the NCES study that shows that students in charter schools and students in traditional district schools are performing at a statistically similar level.

Unfortunately, that singular data point ignores another important result of the NCES study – that charter schools on a whole serve a very different student body than traditional district schools. As a whole, higher percentages of charter school students were Black (26 compared to 15 percent) and Hispanic (33 percent to 26 percent) than in traditional public schools.

Even more importantly, a larger percentage of charter schools (36 percent compared to 24 percent of traditional district schools) serve a high poverty population of students.

Charter schools help improve minority performance

A second study, this one from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, shows that just the simple presence of charter schools in an education ecosystem improves the performance of Black and Hispanic students.

The study shows those improvements are not limited to students attending the charter schools, but that minority students in BOTH district schools and charter schools see improvements when charter schools open in a community.

Additionally, the study sees these improvements in both urban and suburban and rural populations.

Charter schools help improve performance for ELL and special needs students

Finally, a new study of charter schools in the Boston area shows that, contrary to charter opponent talking points, charter schools both serve and have a significantly positive impact on students with special needs and English Language Learners.

The study, this one coming from Tufts University economist Elizabeth Setren, follows students who had special needs or ELL designations BEFORE attending a charter school. This is important because many of the students lose the designation in charter schools resulting in inaccurate comparisons between district schools and charter schools.

Setren’s study shows that not only do charter schools in Boston still serve a significant population of special needs and ELL students (even if they have lost a specific designation) but that they serve them very well.

According to her study, special needs students attending a charter school for a year see a 30 percent reduction in achievement gaps in math and a 20 percent achievement gap reduction in ELA. ELL students attending a charter school for a year see an 84 percent achievement gap reduction in math and a 39 percent reduction in ELL.

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