What’s the latest research on charter school performance?

October 15, 2019

The effect of charter schools on student achievement.  Charter schools increasingly play a prominent role in educating students in the United States. Given the vast resources allocated to charter schools, it is imperative the question is asked, How effective are these schools in comparison to traditional public schools? This meta-analysis focuses on student math and reading performance. The authors found an overall effect size for elementary school reading and math of 0.02 and 0.05 and middle school math of 0.055. Effects were not statistically meaningful for middle school reading and high school math and reading. The study offers compelling evidence that charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations, grades, and subjects, and out-perform traditional public schools in other geographical locations, grades, and subjects. The mixed results are not surprising as there is no set management model, quality of personnel, curricula, or pedagogy that distinguishes charter schools from public schools. The study did find a small positive effect size for KIPP charter schools. The absence of significant achievement gains attributed to charter schools should concern school systems considering expanding the number of charter schools as a solution to underperforming schools.

Citation: Betts, J. R., & Tang, Y. E. (2019). The effect of charter schools on student achievement. School choice at the crossroads: Research perspectives, 67-89.