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Massachusetts Charters Outperform Regular Schools, Study Finds

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Students in charter schools in Massachusetts outperformed their regular public school counterparts in reading and math in the state, and students in charter schools in Boston experienced significantly higher learning gains in reading and math than students in regular public schools in the city, says a new study released by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO.

Released in the wake of last week's report about charter schools in New York City, the study found that compared with the academic progress that students made in regular public schools, students in charter schools in Massachusetts gained an additional one and a half more months of learning per year in reading and an additional two and a half more months of learning per year in math. Students in Boston's charter schools gained 12 months of additional learning per year in reading and 13 months of additional learning in math compared with their regular public school counterparts.

"The average growth rate of Boston charter students in math and reading is the largest CREDO has seen in any city or state thus far," Edward Cremata, a research associate and co-author of the Massachusetts study, said in a press release. The study examined performance data for grades 3 to 8 and 10.

Eighty-three percent of charter schools in Boston significantly outperformed their regular public school counterparts, and none of the charter schools performed significantly worse than the regular district schools.

The findings on charter school performance throughout Massachusetts were more mixed. The report found that when broken down by local community, urban charters outperformed regular district schools in math and reading, suburban charters saw smaller gains in math and reading than regular public schools, rural charters saw significant gains in reading but average gains in math, and charter schools located in "towns" (defined as an urban cluster that is 10 to 35 miles away from an urbanized area) had significantly lower growth than regular district schools in reading and similar growth as regular public schools in math.

Overall, compared with regular public schools, 44 percent of charter schools in the state saw significant gains in reading, while 13 percent of charter schools saw significantly lower gains in that subject. In math, 56 percent of charters outperformed regular public schools while 17 percent performed worse than their regular public school counterparts.

The researchers used a "virtual control record" in which students in charter schools are compared with their "virtual twins" who attend regular public schools that the charter students would have otherwise attended. Twins are chosen to match the charter school student's standardized test score, race and ethnicity, special education considerations, free-or-reduced-lunch participation, English proficiency, grade level, and grade retention, in order to compare performance at the two sets of schools.

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