CREDO: Massachusetts Charters Handily Outperform Public Schools

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at California’s Stanford University has found that Massachusetts charter school students gain on average one to two months of learning compared to their public school counterparts.

The gains break down to 1.5 months of learning in reading and 2.5 months of learning in mathematics.

The results are even more impressive in Boston, where charter schools substantially outperform others in the state. More than 13% of the total Massachusetts charter school students are enrolled in a Boston charter where they get an additional 12 months of schooling in reading and 12 months of learning in math in the course of a single year. More than 4 in 5 charters around the city outperformed traditional schools. None performed worse than at least the average for all the city schools.

“The average growth rate of Boston charter students in math and reading is the largest CREDO has seen in any city or state thus far. These results signify that these schools could serve as a model and have an opportunity to transfer knowledge to not only the rest of the state but to the national sector as well,” said Edward Cremata, Research Associate and co-author of the Massachusetts report.

CREDO is at the forefront of charter school performance analysis around the country and is a leader in determining the effectiveness of such publicly-funded but privately-operated institutions. This report is the second time the organization looked at the performance of charters in Massachusetts. Academic outcomes of more than 25,000 students over 5 years went into analysis for the report.

The 2013 Massachusetts analysis found that statewide 44 percent of charter schools have significantly larger learning gains in reading, while 56 percent do so in math. Thirteen percent of charter schools have results that are significantly worse than their district school peers in reading and 17 percent of charters are worse in math. Results for charter schools outside of Boston were mixed, with suburban and rural charters seeing positive and significant growth compared to their district counterparts, while charters located in “towns” (according to the National Center for Education Statistics) had significantly lower growth in reading and similar growth in math compared to their district school peers.

The reason that the report provided a separate breakdown of Boston schools is because their success could serve as a model not only to other charters in Massachusetts but schools from all over the country. In addition, what makes Boston special is that a large percentage of students who are enrolled in charters in the city are exactly of the demographic background that these types of schools were designed to reach – coming from lower-income, minority families.

Boston can be used as a model of an education system aiming at and succeeding in closing the income and racial/ethnic academic achievement gap.