by Claudio Sanchez
July 16, 2013
Charter schools turn 21 this year. In that time, these privately run, publicly funded schools have spread to 41 states and enrolled more than 2 million students.
But one key question lingers: Do kids in charter schools learn more than kids in traditional public schools?
There have been lots of skirmishes over charter school data over the years. But few have created as big a ruckus as the 26-state study of charter schools released recently by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.
Like previous studies, the one from CREDO concluded that kids in most charter schools are doing worse or no better than students in traditional public schools. About a third, though, are doing better. And that’s a big jump from four years ago. The gains among blacks, Latinos and kids whose first language is not English have been impressive and surprising, says CREDO Director Margaret Raymond.
“The fact that we can show that significantly disadvantaged groups of students are doing substantially better in charter school in reading and math, that’s very exciting,” she says.
More and more charter school students are doing better, Raymond says, because they’re getting anywhere from three to 10 extra weeks of instruction compared to their public school counterparts.
“The average charter school student in the United States is benefiting from additional days of learning,” she says, “compared to where they were four years ago and compared to traditional public schools they otherwise would’ve attended.
None of these findings were in dispute. But when Jeanne Allen looked at the study, it upset her.
“The way that CREDO has manipulated data and made conclusions about policy based on that data is absolutely ‘un-credible,’ ” she says.
Allen heads the Center for Education Reform. She loves charter schools and would do