NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Studies Document Strong Academic Gains For Charter Schools

March 28, 2001

Three new studies show strong gains in test scores for children enrolled in charter schools -- with some of the biggest improvements among the lowest-performing students. Charter schools are run by parents, teachers or other groups and are usually freed of the bureaucratic regulations that hamper traditional public schools.

While their popularity with parents has long been recognized, only now is their academic superiority over other public schools being documented.

The first of the studies measured achievement at Advantage Schools -- a private Boston-based firm that manages 15 inner-city charters in seven states and the District of Columbia.

  • Some 9,000 students at those schools in 1999-2000 gained an average of 9.1 points on two national standardized tests.
  • Students in kindergarten through second grade showed the biggest improvement -- with reading scores climbing 19 percentile points, making their abilities equal to or better than 67 percent of the nation.
  • The math percentile ranking rose 3.6 points to 33.2.

In the second study, the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute found that in both reading and math, two to three consecutive years in a charter school had a greater positive impact on test scores than two to three years in a traditional public school.

Western Michigan University researchers found that Pennsylvania charters posted gains on state assessments of more than 100 points in just two years -- outgaining their host school districts by 86 points over the same period.

Researchers say students from a sample of charter schools also gained on commercially-available tests, such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the SAT.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Score Goes Up for Charters," USA Today, March 28, 2001.

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