I've heard calls for the ordinary public school system in my state to be replaced or supplemented with a charter school system (pdf warning).

Do charter schools perform better or worse than other public schools?

If so, by what measures?

  • 1
    This could be hard to measure. I've known of charter schools that only grade on participation and effort; nearly everyone gets high marks. Maybe compare SAT, or other standard test, scores Sep 16, 2012 at 21:48
  • 3
    What is the claim here to investigate? Who's making it?
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 16, 2012 at 21:55
  • this isn't really answerable as charter schools can be selective of their students where public schools can't. so any comparison would be inherently unbalanced in favor of charter schools appearing better.
    – Ryathal
    Sep 17, 2012 at 15:11
  • @Ryathal: Just because charter schools can be selective of their students doesn't mean they neccessarily are. If any schools have randomized admissions, you could look at the test scores of students admitted vs. not admitted.
    – Dan
    Sep 17, 2012 at 17:14
  • 1
    I think the results have been hit or miss. I know that the kids that went to the Edison(charter) Schools around my area had higher attendance, SAT, and graduation rates. But I suspect that there is also a high parental involvement in the students who went to the charter schools. So its hard to say that the charter school system is the solution.
    – Chad
    Sep 17, 2012 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


It depends.

The Economist ran an article on July 7, 2012 reporting mixed results across states and types of pupils. It pointed to particular gains for the weakest and poorest children and in elementary schools rather than high schools, but with bad results in some states.

It highlighted two particular pieces of research, one in 2009 from CREDO at Sanford which said

For students that are low income, charter schools had a larger and more positive effect than for similar students in traditional public schools. English Language Learner students also reported significantly better gains in charter schools... States with reading and math gains that were significantly higher for charter school students than would have occurred in traditional schools included: Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana and Missouri.... States with reading and math gains that were significantly below their peers in the traditional public school system included: Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas.

and another from Mathematica Policy Research in 2011 saying

  • We found that, on average, charter schools had no significant impacts on student achievement in math and reading.
  • Impacts on measures of both student and parent satisfaction were statistically significant.
  • We found that charter school impacts varied widely across schools.
  • Impacts were most positive among schools in large, urban areas and among those serving the most disadvantaged students.

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