Charter schools are a prominent and growing component of the public school system in the United States, with roughly 6,400 charters across the country enrolling over 2.5 million students . The charter sector is regularly treated as a monolithic set of schools, but recent research has made clear that across the U.S. there are in fact distinct charter markets with dramatically different student profiles, governance and oversight structures, and academic quality . Previous CREDO state level studies, in addition to other recent analyses of charter school performance, have identified individual charter markets substantially outperforming their TPS peers, particularly those serving students in urban areas. CREDO decided to investigate whether urban charter schools do in fact have differential performance than that found in our 2013 National Charter School Study for the charter sector as a whole and, if so, what the drivers of these differences in quality might be.
In this report, CREDO used its unprecedented data holdings to investigate the student profiles and academic performance of a large portion of the major urban regions in the U.S. CREDO included in this analysis forty-one major urban regions for which we have student level administrative and school level data. A complete list of urban regions included in this analysis can be found in the section “Defining Urbanity” below. In this document, as well as in the content found online at credo.stanford.edu, we address the following major questions:
Our findings show urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS peers. Specifically, students enrolled in urban charter schools experience 0.055 standard deviations (s.d.’s) greater growth in math and 0.039 s.d.’s greater growth in reading per year than their matched peers in TPS. These results translate to urban charter students receiving the equivalent of roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading.