New national report reveals significant learning gains for charters

By June 13, 2023 News, Research

A new national study reveals significant achievement gains for students attending public charter schools. The study, released by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), was large and comprehensive, spanning the years of 2014 to 2019. Researchers evaluated 1.85 million charter students in 29 states (along with Washington, DC and New York City), comparing them to a matched set of 1.85 million students in traditional public schools (TPS). Data covered 81% of tested students in the United States, “making it one of the largest data sets of student-level observations created to date,” according to researchers.

Charter schools advance student learning in reading and math

Researchers reported learning outcomes in terms of days of learning–gained or lost, across the academic year. Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools advanced the learning of their students by an average of 16 days in reading and 6 days in math.

“As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023,” CREDO, June 6, 2023.

Performance among charter student subgroups, types of schools

Charter schools were particularly effective in producing learning gains for Black and Hispanic students, students living in poverty, and English language learners. Researchers also identified differences in efficacy among charter schools themselves. Specifically, charter schools run by charter management organizations (CMOs) produced bigger gains than stand-alone charter schools–27 days in reading and 23 days in math.

“As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023,” CREDO, June 6, 2023.

Just 6% of charter students nationwide are enrolled in virtual charter schools, according to CREDO researchers. Unfortunately, performance for students in these charter schools did not parallel the performance of brick-and-mortar charters in the study. CREDO researchers write:

Brick-and-mortar charter school students had significantly stronger growth in reading (22 more days) and math (15 more days). Online charter school students had much weaker growth. Online charter school students grew 58 fewer days in reading and 124 fewer days in math than their TPS peers.

Findings for North Carolina charter schools

Charter schools in North Carolina produced significant learning gains for students in reading but not in math. In reading, the study found that North Carolina charter students gained 13 days–a significant gain compared to traditional public schools. In math, student performance was weaker for charter schools than for traditional public schools, although the difference was not statistically significant. See all state-level results here.