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Michigan Home to High-Performing Charters, Study Finds

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Charter school students in Michigan gained an additional two months of learning over the course of a single academic year in reading and math than their traditional school counterparts, according to a new study from Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

The showing among charters in Detroit, where the schools have struggled academically and financially for years, was even stronger. Motown charter school students gained about three months of additional learning over an academic year in reading and math than their counterparts in regular public schools, the study found.

Nearly half of the students in the state's roughly 300 charter schools are located the greater Detroit area, compared to about 6 percent of traditional public schools located in the area. Seventy percent of the students served by charter schools in Michigan are low-income, compared to 43 percent served by traditional public schools.

The study compared groups of charter and traditional public school students who share similar characteristics and demographics, such as grade-level, gender, race/ethnicity, free- or reduced-price lunch status, English language learner status, special education status, as well as prior test scores on state achievement tests. It looked at academic data collected over the course of six academic years (2005-06 through 2010-11).

The center has analyzed charter school performance in many states including, most recently, Indiana and New Jersey. Those studies also found that charter school students in those states outperformed students in traditional public schools, with New Jersey demonstrating similarly high performance levels as Michigan while Indiana—although its charters' performance did outpace that of traditional public schools—was more of a mixed bag.

Overall, 35 percent of charter schools in Michigan had significantly higher learning gains in reading than traditional public schools, while only two percent performed significantly worse. In math, 42 percent of charter schools outperformed their traditional public school counterparts, compared to six percent of charter schools that performed worse. That makes Michigan's charter schools among the highest performing among the states that CREDO has studied so far.

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