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Charter Schools Strong for Poor, Minority Students

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A new study from CREDO at Stanford University shows that charter schools nationwide have improved significantly over the last several years, and are having a major impact on some of most vulnerable student populations. From Fox News:

“The average charter school student showed reading gains equivalent to those that would be expected from an extra eight days of school compared to traditional school students, the study said. Math gains were about equal among the two groups. The results were much improved from the 2009 study, when charter students lost the equivalent of seven days of learning in English and 22 days in math.”

The study found that charter schools had an even more academically significant impact amongst low-income and minority students:

“When broken down into groups, the study showed that black students gained the equivalent of 14 days of learning by attending charter schools but that black students living in poverty saw even greater benefits, the equivalent of 29 days in reading and 36 days in math. Hispanic English-language learners saw even higher gains, though Hispanics in general scored similarly to Hispanics in traditional public schools.”

The study is results based and did not extensively examine why charter schools were getting such strong results, but CREDO director Margaret Raymond theorized two causations. The first is long-standing, that charter schools’ capacity to direct funds with more flexibility than a traditional public school gives them a greater ability to address the specific needs of their student body. The second reason is that in recent years, many states have strengthened their accountability measures for charter schools, making it much easier to close a failing campus. The CREDO report called the ability to do as much “he strongest tool available to ensure quality across the sector.”

As much might be a very positive sign for Texas charter schools. With the passage of SB 2, our legislature not only elevated the cap on open-enrollment charters from 215 to 305, but streamlined the process for closing a low-performing charter. The CREDO results would suggest that because of the latter, Texas charters could experience a boost in academic performance over the next several years.

We have a massive, ever-growing student population in Texas. More high quality open-enrollment charter schools means a better shot at a bright future for thousands of our students, particularly minority and low-income students. The CREDO results re-enforce that SB 2 was a strong, strong step for Texas education, and for the future of our state as a whole.