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Are Charter Schools Effective


In the USA and worldwide, authorities rely more and more on non government actors to reach public goals. It has caused controversy in many spheres, especially in the field of learning. During the educational reforms, charter schools have had considerable influence on pupils and public schools. There are many supporters of the given establishments; however, some market-based arguments describe them as a threat to traditional school. The opponents’ central concern refers to "cream-skimming" meaning that charter schools have the privileges to students with certain educational background, class, or race. Therefore, current paper explores the general information with regards to charter schools and their effect on both the educational system and students’ performance.

The Background Information

To start with, the charter movement began in the 1990s by democrats and public activists. By 2005, there were approximately 3,000 charter schools in 40 states, and governments continued to expand their number. In some cities, the given schools have been opened especially quickly. For example, 25% of students in Ohio, Dayton, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C. enroll to them. David Osborne has explained the original idea of such educational establishment stating that the aim “was to open the public school monopoly to competition from new schools, operated on contract by other organizations: nonprofits, teacher cooperatives, universities, even for-profit businesses”. The charter is usually a five-year performance contract with provisions regarding the outcomes expected from a school. According to Forman’s definition, charter school is created when the government makes a contract with an independent school operator. The latter obtain a specified sum of state money for every student who makes a choice to attend their school, and have control over the budget, personnel, and curriculum. In exchange for such freedom, the schools have to meet the learners’ requirements concerning their achievements as well as other goals stated in their charter.

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The Evidence from Charter Schools

Discussing certain areas such as race, motivation, education levels, and student achievements is essential in order to show the effects of studying at charter schools.


Race and education are inextricably linked. In 2003, National Assessment of Educational Progress estimated that approximately 74% of white public school students of fourth grades passed the tests at the "basic" level compared to 39% of the black students. At the next level, the disparities grew up with 39% of white learners testing proficient, and only 12% of blacks who reached that level. Taking into account such difference in statistics and the American history in general, there was a concern that charter schools might become havens for students from white families. However, the data does not show it has happened. The proportion of black students in charters is higher than in district schools. In particular, 31% of the U.S. charter learners are black in comparison with 17% in district schools. As for the white learners, they account for 45% of the charter school population compared to 58% of students in district schools. Findings from several states confirm that charter schools attract a great proportion of black students.

Motivation and Education Levels

Another aspect that has to be discussed with regard to the charter schools is parent and student motivation. There is a probability that charter schools attract those parents who are more engaged with the schooling of their children. Similarly, the students themselves take their education more seriously. Such high motivation levels can influence positively the learners’ achievements. However, comparing the students’ success in charter schools and district ones, the scholars cannot easily tell whether there are differences due to characteristics of a student or an educational establishment. Therefore, the fact that charter school students sometimes show worse results than their district school peers proves that they do not “cream-skim”.

Students’ Achievements

Although the critics claim that charters are not much better than public schools, the findings of Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) present a deeper truth. The researchers of the center explain that when charter authorizers perform their jobs well, the learners of these schools vastly outperform those studying in traditional schools spending less money.

The newer report of CREDO demonstrates the effect of charter schools from 41 urban areas. It is stated that the students in these educational establishments learn much more than their peers who attend traditional public schools. At the same time, the authors point out that the learners’ performance differs across urban places. For instance, in 26 of 41 cities, charter students learnt more in math, and in 23 cities they learnt more in reading compared with their peers from traditional schools. However, in other 11 cities considered, students of charter schools studied less in math, and those in 10 cities learnt less in reading than their peers in public schools.There are also some differences in the magnitude of learning gains when analyzing the charter school students. While a typical student of such school gains approximately 40 extra days learning in math, the one from a school in Boston had more than 200 days studying than their peers from district schools.

Certain urban charters produce phenomenal results for students, for example, the ones in Boston, San Francisco, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Newark, and Detroit. The fastest improving urban area in the USA is New Orleans that has 92.4% of charter students. It should be mentioned that charter schools in cities lead to good learning gains of nearly groups of students. The Black, Asian, and Hispanic charter students and those who are in poverty or participate in special education programs show higher learning gains than their peers in district educational establishments. The exception is two student subgroups such as the Native Americans and white students as they usually do not do so well in charters as in public schools.

The Effect of Charter Schools on Public Schools

The researchers have investigated the impact of charters on traditional schools by analyzing the students’ results in traditional public schools following charter market penetration. As Texas has been an essential player in a charter school industry, the scholars have used “an eight-year panel of data on individual test scores” for students of public schools in the city to evaluate the achievement effect of charters. As a result of the investigation, they have found that the emergence of charters has a positive influence on student performance, particular in terms of test scores. Such a good effect is seen consistently during reading and math tests. Except the mentioned above discovery, Booker and his colleagues have also observed the positive impact of charter school penetration on the performance of the Hispanic, African-American learners, and students who are from low-performing campuses. The mentioned findings prove the potential for further achievement gains resulting from the competition.


To sum up, charter schools refer to public educational establishments which are exempted from most local and state regulations. Based on the multiple researches, the scholars have found that the emergence of these schools has had a significant effect on student performance, particularly in terms of test scores. Moreover, such a positive impact is consistent with regards to reading and math exams. Finally, the researchers claim that except improving educational outcomes, charter schools also refine learners’ results at neighboring traditional public schools via enhanced competition.

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