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In California, There Are Indeed Measurable Differences in Achievement

Charter public schools across the country are more diverse and enrollment in them increased by more than five times between 2000 and 2016.

Those are some of the notable findings in the National Center for Education Statistics’ new report, “School Choice in the United States: 2019.”

According to the report, enrollment at charter schools was 26 percent Black and 33 percent Latinx during the 2016-17 school year, while at traditional public schools it was 15 percent Black and 26 percent Latinx. During that same period, a higher share of charter school students enrolled in high-poverty schools than in traditional district schools, 34 percent to 24 percent.

The report also underscores that over the past two decades, an increasing number of parents are finding that charter public schools are a better educational option for their children. Enrollment at charter schools grew over five times compared to just one percent at district schools. 

One part of the report that’s getting a good deal of attention is the finding that there are no “measurable differences” in achievement between charter and traditional district schools. But as Education Week rightly points out, widely cited research from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) shows that charter schools in different parts of the country are clearly outperforming traditional district schools.

That includes California, where the data tells a compelling success story about the charter school sector and how it’s expanding opportunity for students from all backgrounds.

The CREDO studies show that charter schools in California are significantly closing the achievement gap, helping Black and Latinx students across the state gain weeks and months of additional learning. Also unique to California are the facts that English Language learners are making academic gains, and students with disabilities are learning in more inclusive settings than their peers in district schools--and thriving

More recent research that we’ve waded through highlights that charter schools are not only closing the achievement gap, but also expanding access to college for historically disadvantaged students. For example, between 2014 and 2017, charter schools helped Black and Latinx students achieve higher rates of application and admittance to University of California schools. A larger proportion of Black and Latinx charter school students enroll in California State Universities than their district school peers.

Charter schools may not be thriving in every part of the country. But here in California, they certainly are.

Photo credit: Vox Collegiate