This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
New analysis by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has found that charter schools in urban areas show higher rates of growth on state standardized tests compared to traditional urban school districts.
The study found that minority students living in poverty got the biggest boost from attending a charter school.
Released Wednesday, CREDO’s report examined test data from 41 urban regions from 2007 to 2012 using a "match" analytic that compares the growth of students living in the same neighborhoods who share similar demographic characteristics and similar starting test scores.
CREDO deems these "virtual twins."
Looking at the urban centers in total, CREDO concluded that attending a charter school provided students the equivalent of 40 additional days in math and 28 additional days in reading — showing a significant increase from its 2013 study of the charter sector nationally.
"This research shows that many urban charter schools are providing superior academic learning for their students, in many cases quite dramatically better," said CREDO director Margaret Raymond. "These findings offer important examples of school organization and operation that can serve as models to other schools, including both public charter schools and traditional public schools."
In Philadelphia, CREDO says, students in charter schools receive the equivalent of an additional 43 days in reading and math instruction.
Charters fared better than district schools in most growth measures when student populations were broken down by demographic – including the gains seen among Black, Hispanic, and impoverished students.
The charter sector showed especially significant gains among English language learners in math.
District schools fared very slightly better in both reading and math among special education students.
Local charter boosters trumpeted the report’s findings.
"The CREDO study shows that, when given a chance, public school choice works in urban areas, including Philadelphia," said Robert Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. "This is why charter schools that are outperforming district schools should be allowed to continue to operate, but should also be allowed to expand so they can serve the needs of more children."
The CREDO report found that the Philadelphia School District educates a higher percentage of students who are in in poverty, learning English, and receiving special education services.
Philadelphia was the only urban school district in Pennsylvania included in the study.