NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Progress Of Texas Charter School Students

June 25, 2002

During the 2001-2002 school year, more than 50,000 students were enrolled in state-approved charter schools in Texas. Charter schools are independent public schools that are freed from many of the bureaucratic rules and regulations of traditional public schools.

Overall, 57.6 percent of students enrolled in Texas charter schools are economically disadvantaged to the degree that they qualify for federally subsidized lunches, a somewhat higher proportion than the 50.4 percent who qualify in traditional public schools.

Students who remain in charter schools for consecutive years have strong academic gains. Passing rates on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), a minimum skills test, have improved for children enrolled in charter schools in each of the years charter schools have been open in Texas.

A recent Texas Public Policy Foundation study compared the performance of students in charter schools and traditional public schools using the Texas Learning Index (TLI), which is derived from raw TAAS scores and controls for variations across years and grades. For the years 1999 and 2000:

  • Students who stayed in charter schools for two years experienced a TLI increase of 1.6 points in reading and 2.8 points in math; by comparison, index scores for students who stayed in traditional public schools increased 1.4 points in reading and 1.5 points in math. [See Figure II.]
  • The progress of at-risk students in charters and traditional public schools was roughly the same, while the progress of non-at-risk charter school students (1.5 point increase in reading and a 2.5 point increase in math) far outpaced the progress of comparable students in public schools (0.7 point increase in both reading and math).

Thus the performance of charter school students improved at a rate greater than that of traditional public school students.

Source: Matt Moore (policy analyst), "Texas Charter Schools: Do They Measure Up?" Brief Analysis No. 403, June 25, 2002.

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