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ERIC Number: ED526353
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Oct
Pages: 74
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 38
The Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Literature
Betts, Julian R.; Tang, Y. Emily
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Charter schools are largely viewed as a major innovation in the public school landscape, as they receive more independence from state laws and regulations than do traditional public schools, and are therefore more able to experiment with alternative curricula, pedagogical methods, and different ways of hiring and training teachers. Unlike traditional public schools, charters may be shut down by their authorizers for poor performance. But how is charter school performance measured? What are the effects of charter schools on student achievement? Assessing literature that uses either experimental (lottery) or student-level growth-based methods, this analysis infers the causal impact of attending a charter school on student performance. Focusing on math and reading scores, the authors find compelling evidence that charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations, grades, and subjects, and out-perform traditional public schools in other locations, grades, and subjects. However, important exceptions include elementary school reading and middle school math and reading, where evidence suggests no negative effects of charter schools and, in some cases, evidence of positive effects. Meta-analytic methods are used to obtain overall estimates on the effect of charter schools on reading and math achievement. The authors find an overall effect size for elementary school reading and math of 0.02 and 0.05, respectively, and for middle school math of 0.055. Effects are not statistically meaningful for middle school reading and for high school math and reading. Studies that focus on urban areas tend to find larger effects than do studies that examine wider areas. Studies of KIPP charter middle schools suggest positive effects of 0.096 and 0.223 for reading and math respectively. New York City and Boston charter schools also appeared to deliver achievement gains larger than charter schools in most other locations. A lack of rigorous studies in many parts of the nation limits the ability to extrapolate. Appended are: (1) Details on the Studies Used in Any of the Authors' Approaches; (2) Distribution of Effect Sizes for Middle School Reading, KIPP Studies Only, Treating Each Estimate Equally; and (3) Distribution of Effect Sizes for Middle School Math, KIPP Studies Only, Treating Each Estimate Equally. (Contains 13 tables, 26 figures and 11 footnotes.) [Additional funding for this paper was provided by the Achelis & Bodman Foundations, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, The Heinz Endowments, and the Rodel Charitable Foundation.]
Center on Reinventing Public Education. University of Washington Bothell Box 358200, Seattle, WA 98195. Tel: 206-685-2214; Fax: 206-221-7402; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Community; Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: Annie E. Casey Foundation; Daniels Fund; Thomas B. Fordham Foundation; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Department of Education (ED); Walton Family Foundation; Doris & Donald Fisher Fund; Heinz Endowments; Rodel Charitable Foundations
Authoring Institution: University of Washington, Center on Reinventing Public Education
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts; New York