Charter Schools Show Steeper Upward Trend in Student Achievement than District Schools

Research Rundown Issue: October '20
Publisher: Harvard University
Date Published: August '20


Researchers from Harvard University compared how student cohorts at district and charter schools performed between 2005-2017, based on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data in math and reading. The data shows measurable gains for Black and low-income charter school students, amounting to nearly half a year’s worth of additional learning. They found more modest benefits for white students and higher-income students, but a neutral impact for Asian and Latino students.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

About 7% of Minnesota students attend a charter school. Many are designed specifically to meet the needs of historically underserved students, and as a result, charters serve larger proportions of low-income students (54%), English learners (21%), and students of color (62%) than the statewide averages. Despite the fact that parents are seeking out high-quality school options–and that charters are providing opportunity for students who have been historically underserved–misconceptions continue to drive opposition and proposals that would undermine the students they serve. In St. Paul, for example, the City Council recently proposed limiting access to revenue bonds. And at the state level, leaders have considered proposals that would make it harder for charter schools to effectively serve special education students. Policymakers should focus on supporting high-quality charter schools and improving outcomes across the sector.

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