Michigan students enrolled in charter schools learn more in a school year than those in comparable traditional public schools. That’s according to a study released Monday by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
Researchers at Stanford University looked at the state’s more than 250 charter schools over a five year period ending in 2010.
Devora Davis is the Research Manager and she co-authored the report. Not all of their studies have been so positive for charter schools. Of the 20 states they’ve issued reports on so far, Davis says Michigan’s is in the top 5 or 6.
“We’re looking at students who look identical to each other and have the exact same starting score and we’re saying the charter students come out a little bit ahead in terms of learning for that school year, every year,” Davis said.
The study shows charter students gained the equivalent of two months of learning over what their traditional counterparts learned in one school year.
Charter students in “greater Detroit” did even better. And because they represent nearly half of all charter students in Michigan, researchers say better outcomes in metro-Detroit could be the driving force for the gains.
“Charter schools are certainly having a very positive impact where they are needed the most, where the options for parents are limited, they’ve provided an important solution,” Dan Quisenberry, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies said.
The study shows Michigan’s charter schools enroll more students in poverty and more who are black, when compared to traditional public schools.
“It’s great whenever you see students succeeding,” said Doug Pratt, President of the Michigan Education Association.
“Now somebody’s gotta ask and answer the question as to 'why?' so that we can take the things that they’re learning and apply it to everybody else,” Pratt said.
This study doesn’t look at why these charter schools are succeeding. Davis says they will have a report out that delves into that later this year.
Pratt says it’s important to note the study shows charter schools have fewer special education students. And he says by definition charter schools enroll students with more engaged parents, since a parent must take an active role in getting their children into charter schools.
“I’m always very cautious when you’re looking at data like this that you are doing an apples to apples comparison and that’s really hard to do when you’ve got a lot of different kinds of apples out there,” Pratt said.