The Research on Charter Schools

The most recent and extensive study of charter schools (National Charter School Study, CREDO, released June 2013) found that:

  • 25 % of charters performed better in reading than their traditional public school counterparts; 29% of charters performed better in math
  • 19% performed worse in reading than their traditional public school counterparts; 31% of charters performed worse in math
  • 56% performed the same in reading as their traditional public school counterparts; 40% of charters performed the same in math

The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board should ensure that our state’s charter schools follow the principles that led to success in other states.

What characteristics are shared by the highest performing charters?

Charter schools achieved the best results with:

  • High-poverty students, particularly black and Hispanic students in poverty
  • Low-performing students from low-performing schools
  • English Language Learners
  • Middle school students
  • Urban students

Another national CREDO study, released in January 2013, revealed additional lessons related to the development of high quality charters, including the value of due diligence by authorizers during the approval process and the importance of early identification of underperforming schools. The study concluded that the first two years of a charter school’s performance are highly predictive of ongoing performance in future years (those that perform well in the early stages tend to continue their high performance over time, while those that perform poorly in the first two years often do not show significant improvement in future years). The study also found evidence that slow growing charter schools – opening one grade at a time – produce superior results to faster growing schools.

Mississippi should avoid the poorest performing charter schools.
Which schools fall into this category?

Charter schools performed relatively poorly when:

  • They competed with high performing traditional public schools
    • These charter schools yielded less academic growth than their traditional public school counterparts while diminishing the traditional schools’ resources
  • They were cyber-based
  • They focused on corporate profits rather than education
  • They served multiple grade spans

A 2010 CREDO study of New York’s charter schools confirmed these findings. New York charter schools, which dealt predominately with low performing students from low-performing schools, outperformed their traditional public school counterparts and outperformed other charter schools nationally.

A 2011 study of Pennsylvania’s virtual charter schools found that 100% of the cyber schools had “significantly worse” outcomes than their traditional public school counterparts, for which the virtual school companies were paid $10,000 per student from public school coffers.

A 2012 National Education Policy Center study found that, of the cyber charter schools run by for-profit management organizations, only 27.4% met federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures. Four of the non-profit management organizations had 100% of their schools meet federal AYP. The results for non-profit management organizations, however, are also mixed, highlighting the need to require that organizations applying for a charter have a track record of success.

A 2012 CREDO study of New Jersey schools showed similar results. The state’s best performing charter schools were in Newark, where the schools have a higher percent of students living in poverty and where academic performance in the traditional schools has historically been poor. Charter schools located in cities with higher performing traditional public schools and those in rural areas performed worse, on average, than their traditional public school counterparts.


National Charter School Study, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University, 2013

Charter School Growth and Replication, Volume I, CREDO, Stanford University, 2013

Charter School Performance in New Jersey, CREDO, Stanford University, 2012

Profiles of For-profit and Non-profit Education Management Organizations, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado Boulder, 2012

Charter School Performance in Pennsylvania, CREDO, Stanford University, 2011

Charter School Performance in New York City, CREDO, Stanford University, 2010

Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States, CREDO, Stanford University, 2009

Note: CREDO is a part of the conservative Hoover Institution, and its charter school research is funded by the Walton Foundation, a foundation that has actively supported a school choice agenda. Likewise, CREDO has supported a policy agenda that includes “quality school choice expansion,” including the expansion of charter schools.

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