NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Charter Schools Compare Favorably

July 22, 2003

Despite persistent financial shortcomings and hefty reliance on inexperienced teachers, charter school students often do better academically than their traditional counterparts, according to a national study by the Manhattan Institute.

In comparing charter schools with traditional public schools, the authors found:

  • Charter schools tended to serve a disproportionate number of poor, struggling students at risk of dropping out; therefore, according to the authors, it might not be fair to expect charter schools to perform as well on standardized tests as traditional public schools.
  • But when measured against those public schools with similar demographic and geographic characteristics, charter schools produced slightly higher gains in math and reading over a one-year period.
  • Their teachers typically spend less time meeting the demands of state and federal bureaucracies and more energy on class work.
  • They are voluntary, which means that parents of students at charter schools may be taking a more active role in their children's education, another factor that may help explain their apparent success.

"At this point, the most important limitation that they face is their newness," says researcher Jay Greene.

Source: Greg Winter, "Charter Schools Succeed in Improving Test Scores, Study Says," New York Times, July 20, 2003; based on Jay P. Greene, Greg Forster and Marcus A. Winters, "Apples to Apples: An Evaluation of Charter Schools Serving General Student Populations," Education Working Paper No. 1, June 2003, Manhattan Institute.  

For study text


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