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Three Studies, One Powerful Argument for Charter School Expansion

• Sam Duell

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has published three studies in the last year concerning charter schools that, when taken together, make a powerful argument for encouraging the creation of new charter schools. Here are brief summaries of the studies:

Charter schools are good for students who attend them and for their peers who attend the traditional public school down the street.

Study: Rising Tide: Charter School Market Share and Student Achievement – Published in September, 2019, this study analyzes the relationship between how many black and Hispanic students attend charter schools and how well students achieve academically.

Finding: When more black and Hispanic students attend charter schools, black and Hispanic student achievement significantly increases in all surrounding public schools. The higher the proportion of charter school attendance, the better the achievement scores across the district.

Complementary Findings: For findings similar to this study see (1) In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Student in New York City [Temple University, 2017] and (2) Fiscal and Education Spillovers from Charter School Expansion in MA [MIT School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative, 2018].

Charter schools are much more likely to employ teachers of color than traditional public schools, which research suggests is an enormous benefit to students of color.

Study: Student-Teacher Race Match in Charter and Traditional Public Schools – Published in June, 2019, this study analyzes the relationship between students and teachers who share the same race.

Finding: Charter schools have about 35 percent more black teachers, and black charter school students are about 50 percent more likely to have a black teacher than their traditional public-school peers.

Complementary Findings: See eight more studies on student-teacher race-match at Harvard’s Kennedy School Shorenstein Center, Minority teachers: How students benefit from having teachers of same race.

There is still plenty of room for new charter schools in areas that may need them the most.

Study: Charter School Deserts: High-Poverty Neighborhoods with Limited Educational Options – Published in April, 2018, this study analyzes the geography of charter schools, where they are located and where they are not located.

Finding: There are over 500 charter school deserts across 39 states, with deserts being defined as geographic areas with high concentrations of poverty and no charter schools. You can find our own analysis of the study on our blog.

The Fordham Institute is making a powerful argument. Charter schools are good for students, especially for students of color. There are strong indications that the charter school teaching force is more diverse, which is also good for students of color. And there is plenty of room for charter schools to expand in areas that may need them the most. Policymakers should pay attention to these findings as they work to expand opportunity for their constituents.

About the author

Sam Duell

Before Sam joined ExcelinEd as the Associate Policy Director for Charter Schools, he was a special education teacher, a school and central office administrator, the Executive Director of School Choice at Oklahoma’s department of education and the Managing Director of OPSRC’s Education Collaborative. In every position, Sam worked creatively to meet student needs. He founded the Integrated Support Program at Fischer Middle School in San Jose, California to increase the number and percentage of students with learning disabilities who have access to the general education classroom. He was the first administrator of Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the authorizer for online schools in Oklahoma. And he co-founded a statewide afterschool network called the Oklahoma Partnership for Expanded Learning to organize and advocate for expanded learning opportunities after school and during the summer. Sam’s current interests include charter schools and their role in a functional, thriving democracy.