(Note: This blog does not examine the results of CREDO’s New York City focused study, but rather the statewide results published September 26, 2017)
It is imperative to have high-quality research and data to examine and consider when debating any aspect of education reform. It is especially important when it comes to charter schools, with the foundational premise of achieving academic outcomes in exchange for autonomy and independence.
Accordingly, many of us in the charter sector have come to rely upon and appreciate the CREDO team’s research, which examines charter performance against traditional public school students. The latest CREDO report focused on New York State didn’t disappoint.
CREDO has become well-known in education circles for their impressive and in-depth study of educational outcomes, both in traditional school districts and charter schools. The team has developed an innovative method of comparing results for charter students against their “virtual twins” in district schools, and translating hard-to-understand standard deviation measures into a more easily digestible “additional days of learning.” For example, instead of saying that a student performed .05 standard deviations above average, CREDO translates this as the equivalent of 29 additional days of schooling (with the scale set on a 180 day school year). Clearly this is a lot easier for the general public to understand!
Last week, CREDO released a study focusing specifically on charter schools in New York State, looking at student achievement data over a five-year period from 2011-12 through 2015-16 - the most recent year data available at time of the study. Across that period, charter schools statewide consistently provided greater academic growth than their district peers: on average, charter students over the course of the study saw the equivalent of 34 additional days in reading and 63 in math each year. In the most recent growth period included in the study (meaning the learning gains in the last year-to- year analysis) the impact was even larger -- 57 additional days of learning in reading and 68 additional days in math.
Perhaps even more importantly, charters are succeeding with key demographic groups where traditional districts have struggled. Charter schools in New York consistently grew academic achievement among the following demographic groups at significantly higher rates than the same subgroup of students in their district peers: Black, Hispanic, students in poverty, and special education. It is worth noting, however, the more work remains for everyone, as more advantaged students in traditional district settings still have the greatest gains of all.
Charter advocates, supporters, educators, and parents know many of these results to be true based on their daily work and interactions with schools. With even more data on our side confirming that charter schools are working for New York’s students, and particularly those most in need of high-quality educational options, it’s high time for state legislators and officials to recognize this success, too.