Charters Improving at Faster Pace in Urban Areas

M. Danish Shakeel and Paul E. Peterson
Year of publication: 
October 28, 2020

In September we released an article on the Education Next website titled “Charter Schools Show Steeper Upward Trend in Student Achievement than District Schools.” Using a sample of more than four million test performances, it compares the progress made by cohorts of charter and district school students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from 2005 to 2017. Overall, students at charters are advancing at a faster pace than those at district schools. The strides made by African-American charter students have been particularly impressive. We also see larger gains at charters, relative to district schools, by students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We saw more moderate differences between the two sectors for white students, and, among Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans, both sectors made sizeable, comparable strides forward. The figure below breaks out the results by both sector and ethnicity.

Our results have stimulated a good deal of conversation among policy analysts, particularly among those who support school charters. We have been surprised at the modest amount of criticism the study has received from charter critics. However, a report on the study in The 74 includes a critical comment by one observer, who suggests the sample we used was “skewed” in favor of urban charters, a locale where charter students are improving at a more rapid pace than those in district schools.

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