News Story

New Study Shows Better Results For Public Charter School Students Compared To Students In Conventional Schools

Stanford University report took race, poverty level, English language learner and special education status into account

A new study taking race, poverty and other areas into account when measuring performance shows that students in Michigan public charter schools do better academically than their conventional public school counterparts.

The students who took advantage of school choice had academic growth 82 percent above the state average in reading and 72 percent above the state average in math.

The report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) followed more than 85,000 charter school students in 273 schools and took into account grade level, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English language learner status, special education status, gender and prior test scores on state achievement tests.

Michigan public charter school students had larger learning gains than any other state that the organization has studied.

"These findings show that Michigan has set policies and practices for charter schools and their authorizers to produce consistent high quality across the state," said Stanford University's CREDO Director Margaret Raymond. "The findings are especially welcome for students in communities that face significant education challenges.”

The study showed that 35 percent of charter schools did better in reading gains than conventional schools and 42 percent made better gains in math. The majority of charter schools (63 percent and 52 percent, respectively) did about the same compared to conventional schools. Only 2 percent of charter schools did worse comparatively in reading gains and 6 percent in math.

It also showed that public charter schools are helping close the racial achievement gap: black and Hispanic students were significantly better performers in charter schools than in conventional schools when compared with their white counterparts — though all three races made large gains in charter schools. Low-income students also did better in charter schools compared to those in conventional schools.

Public charter schools also enrolled a higher percentage of minority students, students in poverty and English language learners than the traditional public schools. The percentage of students with special needs was only slight different, making up 9 percent of the public charters versus 11 percent in conventional schools.

“This report supports our internal data and shows the Michigan model is working, and it’s leading to significant improvements for children, especially at-risk children who are historically underserved,” said Cindy Schumacher, executive director of The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

The methodology showed that the average student gained two months of additional learning in math and reading with the largest gains taking place for students in Detroit.

Not all the results were positives for charter schools: Students designated as special education and English language learners in charter schools had gains slightly lower than those in traditional public schools.

The study followed students for six school years, from 2005-2006 through 2010-2011.

In late 2011, the Michigan legislature voted to expand and eventually lift the cap on the number of public schools that can be chartered by public universities.

A previous CREDO study looked at charter schools in 16 states in 2009 using the same methodology but with much less data found that only 17 percent of charters did better academically than conventional public schools, 46 percent did about the same and 37 percent did worse. That study has been cited by a variety of charter school opponents, including the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers - Michigan.

To see the full report, visit


See also:

Michigan Capitol Confidential Charter School Coverage

New Report Card Compares High School Test Scores and Adjusts For Economic Status

Charter Schools Average Smaller Class Sizes

Inaccurate Claims Buoy Attacks On Charter Public Schools - 'There is no such thing as a "for-profit" charter school in Michigan'

Charter School Demand Continues to Rise

Parents Pin Hopes on Charter School Lottery

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.