Charter school students are outpacing their peers in regular public school districts in reading and performing at about the same level as traditional public school students in mathematics, according to a new multistate study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
The study, which analyzes charter school performance in 25 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City, found that students attending charter schools gain the equivalent of an additional eight days of learning in reading over the course of a year compared with regular public school students. In math, charter school students experience about the same amount of learning gains as their regular public school peers.
Both findings indicate an upward trend in performance for charter school students, when compared with the research center’s 2009 survey, which looked at charter school student performance in 16 states and found that those schools lagged behind their regular public school counterparts in both subjects.
The new and expanded study shows that a quarter of charter schools outperformed regular public school districts in reading, and 29 percent did so in math, while 19 percent performed significantly worse in reading and 31 percent performed significantly worse in math.
The study also found academic gains in both subjects in the 16 states studied in the 2009 report. Researchers credit the gains to closures of poor-performing charters and an overall drop in performance in the regular public schools.
The Stanford researchers drew comparisons between charter school students’ and regular public school students’ performance through a “virtual-control method” in which charter school students were compared to demographically and academically matched “virtual twins” who attend regular public schools where the charter students would otherwise have been enrolled.
A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as 25-State Study Finds Charter Schools Improving