Facts on Public Charters

Low-income kids & kids of color can achieve more

Studies conducted by nationally prominent research institutions show that public charter schools are successfully closing achievement gaps for students of color, English language learners, and students in poverty. Stanford’s CREDO study found that charter schools helped English language learners and students in poverty achieve more than traditional public schools.

Proposals to allow public charter schools in Washington incorporate 20 years of experience from other states, building on policies and approaches that have already created successful outcomes in 41 states.

Why shouldn’t Washington students have the choice and the opportunity to learn and achieve more?     

Latest Research:

Public charter schools shrink achievement gaps for minority and low-income students in urban schools.

  • Public charter middle schools in Boston cut the black-white achievement gap in math by as much as half in a single year. Significant increases in student achievement also happen in English and math at both the middle school and high school level. (The Boston Foundation, 2009; Harvard University, 2011). 
  • Public charter schools were more effective for lower income and lower achieving students than for higher income and higher achieving students. In addition, charter schools in large urban areas had positive impacts on student achievement in math. (Mathematica Policy Research, 2010).
  • Black and Hispanic students who attended charter schools in NYC for eight years closed the achievement gap with affluent suburbs like Scarsdale by 86% in math and 66% in English. (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2009).

Studies by Stanford and Harvard have found that English language learners and low-income students perform better in public charter schools than in traditional public schools.

Many Hispanic and black students who attend charter schools are better at reading and math than those in traditional public schools.  

  • Students enrolled at public charter schools found in Hispanic areas across the country are 7.6% more likely to proficient in math and 4.2% more likely to be proficient in reading than in their traditional school counterparts (Harvard University/National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004).
  • Charter schools in Minnesota, Missouri, and Louisiana found positive effects on black students’ achievement in reading and math. (Stanford University/CREDO, 2009)
  • Hispanic students at public charter school students in Missouri do better compared to their traditional school peers in both math and reading. In addition, Hispanic public charter school students do better in math in Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana than their traditional public school peers (Stanford University/CREDO, 2009).

Studies of the most successful charter school organizations have found they are particularly effective at closing achievement gaps.

Public charter schools are reducing drop-out rates and increasing college enrollment rates.

  • In Chicago and Florida, charter high schools are having positive impacts, increasing the probability of graduating by 7 to 15 percentage points and increasing enrollment rates in college by 8 to 10 percentage points. (RAND Education, 2009).

Public charters are less costly and more effective than reducing class size.

Parents and students are more satisfied at public charter schools.

A policy brief on public charter schools from the Washington Policy Center found:

  • Charter public schools are popular with parents; 365,000 students are on waiting lists to attend a charter public school.
  • Across the nation, over 1.7 million children now attend 5,453 charter public schools.  This number increased by 9% in 2010 alone.
  • Well-run charter public schools perform significantly better than traditional public schools.
  • Charter public school students are no different in academic background and motivation than students attending traditional public schools.
  • Charter public schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have closed the achievement gap between minority and white students.



The Boston Foundation, 2009. Abdulkadiroglu, J. Angrist, et al. Informing the Debate: Comparing Boston’s Charter, Pilot and Traditional Schools.

Center for Reinventing Public Education at University of Washington, 2011. M. Bowen, A. Demeritt, et al. Charter-School Management Organizations: Diverse Strategies and Diverse Student Impacts.

Center for Reinventing Public Education at University of Washington, 2008. R. Lake. Hopes, Fears, & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2008.

Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States. Stanford University. 2009.

Harvard University’s Center for Public Education Research, 2011. J. Angrist, S. Cohodes, et al. Student Achievement in Massachusetts’ Charter Schools.

Harvard University and National Bureau of Economic Research, 2004. C. Hoxby. Achievement in Charter Schools and Regular Public Schools in the United States: Understanding the Differences.

Mathematica Policy Research, 2010.  C. Tuttle, B. Teh, et al. Student Characteristics and Achievement in 22 KIPP Middle Schools.

Mathematica Policy Research, 2010. P. Gleason, M. Clark, et al. The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts.

National Bureau of Economic Research and Stanford University, 2009. C. M. Hoxby, S. Murarka, and J. Kang. How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement?

RAND Education, 2009. R. Zimmer, B. Gill, et al. Are Charter Schools Making a Difference?

Washington Policy Center, An Option for Learning, 2011

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