Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Shows


The charter sector has grown dramatically since its beginnings in Minnesota almost a quarter of a century ago. Today, an estimated 2.5 million children attend approximately 6,400 charter schools across the country, and all but 8 states have charter laws in place. The expansion of the sector has been accompanied by an increase in public commentary about charter schools’ impact on student achievement. Much of the debate, however, has been marked by rhetoric, with a reliance on data that are often outdated and research that may not utilize the most rigorous scientific research methods. For policymakers trying to address charter school needs, parents trying to determine whether to enroll their child in a charter school, or teachers evaluating job options in charter schools, navigating the spectrum of opinions on charter schools can be a bewildering task. 

Against this backdrop, the National Charter School Resource Center has developed this report to examine recent research and identify common findings for those policymakers, parents, educators, and other stakeholders seeking to gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of charter schools. The report presents up-to-date and methodologically-rigorous answers to these key questions: 

  • What is the impact of charter school attendance on the academic performance of charter school students in math and reading?

  • Do students who enroll in charter schools differ from students in traditional public schools?

  • What charter school practices are correlated with positive student outcomes, and what practices have little or no relationship to student outcomes?