Recent Charter School Research Shows Student Improvement

A look at recent studies on the impact of charter schools on student achievement levels, along with the Center for Reinventing Public Education meta-study of all previous literature, strongly indicates that charters are providing an invaluable service and that charter student show achievement levels well above their public school peers.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in a report titled Public Charter School Success: a Summary of the Current Research on Public Charters’ Effectiveness at Improving Student Achievement, argues that such benefits are going to be simpler to see as the charter sector matures in coming years.

The biggest predictor of charter school success, according to the material summarized in the paper, is how focused a particular charter is on the academic success of its students. However, research is lacking studies that look not only on academics but also on policy, operational and instructional conditions in charters that produce best student outcomes.

A report released in January 2013 looking at charter management organizations (CMOs) and individual charters nationwide found that public charter schools, as they age or replicate into networks, are very likely to continue the patterns and performance set by their early years of operation, and that for most charter schools their ultimate success or failure can be predicted by year three of a school’s life. This analysis found that, on average, students who attended CMOs for four years, have stronger achievement growth than traditional public school students and nonCMO charter students in both reading and math.

The review of current research also includes the 2013 national study of KIPP Public Charter Schools, which found three years of enrollment moved students from 44th percentile of their district to 58th percentile in math; from 46th percentile to 55th percentile in reading; from 36th percentile to 49th in science and from 39th to 49th percentile in social studies.

A report released in February 2013 found that the typical student in a Massachusetts public charter school gains more learning in a year than his or her peer in a district public school, amounting to about one and a half more months of learning per year in reading and two and a half more months of learning per year in math. The study included an analysis of Boston public charter schools, finding that the gains for a typical student in a Boston charter – about 13 percent of the state’s charter students – were even more pronounced, equating to more than twelve months of additional learning per year in reading and thirteen months greater progress in math.