Urban charter schools improve the achievement of their low-income, black and Latino students, writes Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan professor, in the New York Times. In predominantly white, middle-class suburbs, “charters do no better and sometimes do worse” than neighborhood schools.
Lottery studies in Massachusetts and a national study of charter schools funded by the Education Department confirm the pattern, she writes.
A Stanford study of student performance in 41 cities “also concluded that their charters outperformed their traditional public schools.”
Charter schools in Boston, which predominantly educate low-income black students, produce “huge gains in test scores,” her research shows. Charter-school “score gains are large enough to reduce the black-white score gap in Boston’s middle schools by two-thirds.”
Boston’s charters also do a better job at preparing students for college. Charter students are twice as likely to take an Advanced Placement exam as similar students in Boston’s other public schools. Ten percent of charter students pass an A.P. calculus test, compared with just 1 percent of similar students in other public schools. This stronger preparation means that these charter students are far more likely than similar students in traditional public schools to attend a four-year college.
Urban charters have one big advantage: It’s not hard to do better than the district alternative.
The bar is higher in the suburbs. Suburban charters must be drawing parents who value a small school, more flexibility, a non-standard curriculum or . . . They’re choosing something.
Looking at eighth-grade math scores on NAEP, Hispanic charter students in Florida and Arizona “scored about a grade level ahead” of Hispanic students in district schools, writes Matthew Ladner. In Florida, Hispanic charter students outperform the state average for all students in half the states.