Jun 13
Credo Study Graphic

CREDO Study Shows Public Charters are Outpacing Traditional Schools, but More Work is Needed to Effectively Serve Students with Disabilities

As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023 (NCSSIII) is the third national study by CREDO evaluating the academic progress of students enrolled in charter schools in the United States. The current report presents findings from 2014 to 2019, which yields four periods of year-to-year student growth as measured by state achievement tests from 29 states, plus Washington, D.C. and New York City.

CLE recognizes the significant progress made in the charter sector but calls for more action to be inclusive and effective for all children

“The impressive growth and overall outcomes in the public charter school sector compared to traditional public schools, as detailed in the latest CREDO study, is significant for families in search of high-quality learning options. The study reinforces a steady trend of positive growth in charter schools, serving as evidence that authorizers and funders are committed to adapting to the needs of students and continuously improving practices. The progress of certain demographic subgroups is encouraging as well, including students of color and English learners who are outpacing their peers in traditional schools in reading and math. This is especially true in the 1,000 “gap-busting” schools identified by CREDO.

However, as an organization dedicated to promoting educational equity and opportunity for students with disabilities, it is impossible to ignore the lagging performance of students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools. The finding is particularly disconcerting given charters educate fewer students with disabilities overall and fewer with highly specialized needs. While charters that operate as part of a charter management organization demonstrate equivalent growth, students in stand-alone charter schools were found to receive 18 fewer days of learning gains in reading and 23 fewer in math. That is, the students who require additional supports to be successful are falling further and further behind, and this was prior to the pandemic which disproportionally disrupted learning for students with disabilities.

To be viable for all families and overcome political resistance, the sector simply must commit to improving access and outcomes for students with disabilities. On this front, we believe the CREDO study offers hope. It not only proves the potential of charter schools to be a viable option for families interested in better instructional opportunities, but it also underscores the opportunity for further research and collaboration among policymakers, authorizers, and educators to prioritize learners with disabilities and hopefully make equal strides as we’ve seen with other student groups across the charter sector.

We commend the work of CREDO in conducting this impactful study and applaud charter school leaders and educators on their continued progress. We urge policymakers, authorizers, and educators to use these findings to inform efforts toward expanding successful educational practices so that they are inclusive and accessible for all students.”

The following CLE publications provide further evidence and advice: