CREDO releases results of new study on urban charters

Published on: March 19, 2015

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released the results of its study on urban public charter schools throughout the U.S. This study is similar to past public charter school studies by CREDO where the team of researchers match students in charter schools to his/her “virtual twin” in a traditional public school. It looks at the impact that charter schools have on academic growth.

Compared to CREDO’s 2013 charter school study, public charter schools as a whole have improved. As the report notes, “the 41 urban charter regions have improved results at both ends of the quality spectrum: they have larger shares of schools that are better than traditional public school alternatives and smaller shares of under-performing schools.” Public charter school students throughout the country, on average, experienced higher levels of academic growth in math and reading when compared to their matched peers in traditional public schools. Moreover, gains tend to be larger for Black, Hispanic, low-income, and special education students. Despite these positive results and improvements, there are some regions where charters continue to struggle.

But Milwaukee is not one of them. A summary of the findings for Milwaukee charter schools can be found here. Overall, results are positive and encouraging. Here are the main takeaways for Milwaukee (all results stated below are statistically significant):

– Average academic growth in both math and reading was greater for charter school students than traditional public school students (0.04 and 0.09 standard deviations (s.d.));

– Charter school students experienced higher academic growth in every period studied (2007-2011), especially in math. Gains were significantly higher in the last period for reading and last 3 periods for math (0.08 to 0.12 s.d. higher). This might suggest that the sector has been improving over time.

– Students in elementary and multi-level charter schools experienced significantly higher gains than their matched traditional public school peers (0.04 to 0.14 s.d.).

– Students enrolled in charter schools for 2 to 4 years experienced significantly higher growth in math (0.05 to 0.09 s.d.);

– Black students in charters experienced significantly higher growth in both subjects than similar students in traditional public schools (0.06 to 0.09 s.d.);

– Hispanic students in charters experienced larger academic growth in math (0.05 s.d.).

Public charter schools should be part of the formula for reducing achievement gaps and increasing access to high-quality education for all families. They receive public funding – often significantly less than traditional public schools – and operate with more autonomy than traditional public schools. In return, they are held accountable to a chartering organization such as a university or nonprofit organization. The results of the CREDO study confirm what WILL reported before in a policy brief that examined charter schools. When parents are empowered with the ability to choose, better matches are made between children and their schools. Indeed, this is welcome news for Milwaukee citizens as the State celebrates Charter School Week.