A new study from the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University uses data to look at changes and growth in student performance in charter schools compared to students in district public schools.
The data, collected by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), show conclusively how charter schools have become better for students and made a majorly positive impact on students’ grades, understanding of subjects, and social growth.
The first study used nationally representative data to trace any changes in student growth. The study tracked groups of students taking exams from 2005 to 2017. Overall, the researchers at Harvard found a more considerable increase in student achievement for students at charter schools than for students at public schools.
Until now, studies have usually compared the average performance of students. The findings here show the pace of improvement in charter schools is much faster over the 12 years.
Here’s a more detailed look at the Harvard study and what it discovered among those involved.
According to the study, on average, district schools outperformed charter schools back in 2005 in both the 4th and 8th grades, especially in mathematics. But by 2017, those differences were gone. Eighth graders attending charter schools show learning comprehension gains that are three months ahead of their public school counterparts.
More specifically, African-American students were an additional six months ahead. Given the fact that one in three charter school students is African-American, this is significant. Scores of those in the bottom quarter of the socioeconomic realm increased nearly two times as much as those of students in public schools.
The authors performed the study to identify whether performance is relative to the decrease in new charter school growth that has taken place since 2017. Given rising achievement levels at charter schools, it is unlikely that any slowdown in growth is related to declining productivity.
Furthermore, what the data from the Harvard study shows is that charter schools are mostly working for students, but especially for historically disadvantaged students. Additionally, the findings within this study align with recent data from Bellwether Education Partners that looked at federal funds for opening new charter schools and how it has changed and aided in opening more high-quality charter schools.
Together, these findings show charter schools are discovering what works through innovation and duplicating their success, eventually creating enhanced achievement gains for their students in the process.
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