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Urban Charters, Districts Serve Equal Numbers of ELLs, Study Finds

Crossposted from Education Week's Charters and Choice blog.

By Arianna Prothero

Nationally, urban charter schools are significantly out-performing their district counterparts in both reading and math, according to a new study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, or CREDO.

The report, released Wednesday, also shows that for the most part, urban charter and district schools are serving equal numbers of English-language learners as well as students in poverty and special education.

Charter opponents have long argued that charter schools actively push out students with special needs, but "what we're finding, while there are regions where these kinds of imbalances do occur, for the most part we're not seeing this skew that we have been hearing about," said CREDO Director Macke Raymond on a phone call with reporters. 

But dig a little deeper, CREDO researchers say, and you'll find charter quality still remains a patchwork across the country with pockets of poorly performing areas.

These findings are all part of an extensive study of charter school performance in 41 major urban areas, culminating in a national analysis along with 22 different state-specific reports. CREDO is calling this one of its largest research efforts.

The work was funded by the Walton Foundation, but CREDO says it maintains control of its research and findings.

In total, students in urban charter schools are achieving the equivalent of 40 additional days of learning in mathematics and 28 more days' learning in reading compared to their district peers. The Walton Foundation also supports some work in Education Week.

CREDO's national study of charter schools in general, released in 2013, found that they produced no extra days in math and only seven extra in reading.

"If there's a good news message, in the charter schools space, it seems to be concentrated in urban areas," said Raymond.

Boston, Newark, and the San Francisco Bay area had some of the highest gains in math and reading relative to their urban district counterparts, while Las Vegas and Fort Worth, Texas were among those that performed worse than their district counterparts.

You can dig into more state- and city-specific data as well as the study's methodology and caveats here.

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