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Charter Schools: Good News for Students

• Sam Duell

This is the first post in a three-part series for National Charter Schools Week. View the second post, Charter Schools: Still Growing!and the third post, Charter Schools: Increasing quantity and quality in states.

Look at Florida. The Florida Department of Education published a performance study in March of this year, and the news is good for charter schools.

When they compared charter schools with traditional schools, charter schools demonstrated higher rates of grade level performance in 65 of 77 comparisons. In 20 of 22 comparisons, charter school students demonstrated smaller achievement gaps. The percentage of students making learning gains was higher in charter schools in 82 of the 96 comparisons. When we look at the state’s A-F school grades, we see that 55 percent of charters scored an A or B, compared to 45 percent of traditional public schools.

Florida A-F School Grades: Charter and Traditional Public School


Look at urban charters. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University published their Urban Charter School Study in 2015. They found that attending a charter school can be like adding dozens of days of learning to a school year. In the study, Hispanic students attending urban charters and learning English as a second language grew by almost 1.5 years in Reading and Math in a single year. This means urban charters are closing achievement gaps.

CREDO's 2015 Urban Charter School Survey


Look at the research. The National Charter School Resource Center, which is funded by the US Department of Education, reviewed five academic studies of charter performance and found:

  • Charter students overall perform better in math and reading.
  • Low-income charter students perform better in math and reading.
  • Charter students with low prior achievement perform better.
  • Minority charter students perform better.
  • Urban charter students perform better and non-urban charter students perform worse.

Not all charter schools are created equal, and some charter schools don’t perform as well as other public schools. But the research is consistent: charter schools are often beneficial for students, especially the students needing them the most.

About the author

Sam Duell

Sam Duell is an Associate Policy Director for Charter School Policy at the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Previously, Sam was a Managing Director at the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center where, among other education infrastructure projects, he focused on building the capacity of charter school authorizers. Before joining the Resource Center, Sam was a special education teacher, a school administrator, a central office administrator and the Executive Director of School Choice at the Oklahoma State Department of Education where he oversaw charter schools.

A native of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Sam earned a bachelor’s from the University of Colorado Boulder and a master’s from UC Berkeley.