Charter schools in the US are significantly outperforming their traditional-public-school peers across the nation — and by particularly large margins in New York City and other urban areas, an extensive new study reveals.
“This is not a fluke,” said Margaret Macke Raymond, director of the prestigious Stanford University Center for Research on Educational Outcomes, which performed the study. “The charter-school sector has improved across the country.
“The New York results are among the best in the country,” she added.
Previous national research from a decade ago showed the learning gap between traditional and charter students was much narrower in reading, with public-school kids actually slightly ahead in math.
Raymond, noting the learning loss experienced by students during the COVID-19 outbreak, said the new study revealing massive strides by charter schools in recent years indicates that elected officials and education policy makers must take a serious look at expanding charter schools or somehow replicating their success.
“We have to have this conversation in a post-COVID world,” she said.
The Stanford researchers analyzed the test results of 4 million students from 2015 through 2019 from 29 states and New York City and Washington, DC, and translated gains into equivalent of days of learning for students.
According to the research:
- Overall, the charter-school students’ performance reflected the equivalent of 16 days more of learning on average a year in reading than their local traditional public school (TPS) students and six days more of learning in math.
- Compared to their TPS peers, urban charter-school students had 29 additional days of growth per year in reading and 28 additional days of growth in math.
- The performance of charter-school students in New York City and upstate were among the top in the US.
Big Apple charter-school kids gained an additional 80 days in math compared to their local districts’ peers, while upstate charter students out-learned their counterparts by 73 days.
In reading, New York City outpaced their counterparts by 42 days, while upstate charter students also exceeded the learning of traditional public-school students by a staggering 75 days.
Students at the city’s 49-charter-school Success Academy network achieved a staggering 206 additional days of learning in math and 107 days in reading compared to surrounding TPS peers.
Eva Moskowtiz, CEO of Success Academy said of the results, “I’m particularly proud that Success Academy as a network tied for second in the nation against a single school with significantly fewer students.”
At the 23-charter-school Achievement First NY network, students achieved 66 more days of learning in reading and an astounding 146 days of learning in math than their TPS peers.
At the 18-charter-school Kipp NYC network, students garnered 72 more days in reading and 138 more days in math than peers in neighboring public schools.
Despite previous other proof of charter-school successes, Democratic state lawmakers — many allied with anti-charter teachers’ unions — have refused to lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in New York. During the 2023 legislative session, they only allowed a modest 14 new schools to open by reusing existing charter licenses.
- Black and Hispanic students in charter schools across the US fared better than their traditional school peers by large margins in both math and reading, as did students in poverty.
More than 1,000 charter schools eliminated learning disparities or the achievement gaps for minority students and students in poverty — moving their performance ahead of their respective state’s average performance.
“This growth represents accelerated learning gains for tens of thousands of students across the country,” said the study, authored and conducted by Raymond, James Woodworth, Won Fy Lee and Sally Bachofer.
“Each student and each school is a proof point that shows it is possible to change the trajectory of learning for students at scale, as well as dramatically accelerate growth for students who have traditionally been underserved by traditional school systems.”
The study’s authors said the real surprise was the number of “gap-busting” charter schools that achieved “educational equity” for disadvantaged students, with performance on par or exceeding that of white students.
“It happens regularly in a large swath of charter schools …..These schools deliver hundreds of independent proof points that learning gaps between student groups are not structural or inevitable; better results are possible,” the authors said.
The study also revealed even discrepancies within the charter-school sector. On the whole, students in charter school management organizations or networks performed better than those in stand-alone or independent charter schools.
Students in charter school networks advanced by 27 additional days in reading and 23 more days in math over TPS students, which is statistically significant
By comparison, students in stand-alone charter schools were 10 days more advanced than TPS students in reading but were no different in math.
Stand-alone charter schools nationally teach two-thirds of all students enrolled in charter schools, so the “soft math performance in these schools taints the otherwise decisive results in other parts of the study,” the authors said.
It’s the strongest performance for the charter school sector since Stanford’s CREDO first began comparing the results of charter schools and traditional public schools about 15 years ago.
Charter schools are publicly funded and privately managed and most are exempt from union rules and have a longer school day and school year.
Stanford CREDO’s initial 2009 study found that charter schools were six days behind TPS students in reading and 17 days behind in math.
By 2013, charter school students were six days ahead of TPS students in learning for reading but three days behind for math.
“Between the 2009 and 2023 studies, against a backdrop of flat performance for the nation, the trend of learning gains for students enrolled in charter schools is both large and positive,;; the study said.
“Over the 15 years covered by the studies, the reading growth of students in charter schools rose by 23 days of learning each year. In the same period, student learning in math increased by 37 days of learning each year.”
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