CREDO Strikes Again: Newark Charters Among the Best

B4K Opinion


Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) has come out with another groundbreaking report on the nation’s charter schools.  This report looked at urban charter schools in 41 districts nationwide, including Newark.  As with CREDO’s 2013 report, Newark’s charter school students vastly outperformed their traditional public school (TPS) peers and meaningfully closed the achievement gap between minority students and their white counterparts.

First, the national report.  Like the 2013 CREDO report, charter students were matched against virtual twins in TPS.  On average, urban charter school students gained an additional 40 days of learning per year in math and 28 days in reading.   The report looked at four separate time periods from 2007-2012, so the learning gains reflect sustained and replicable learning gains over several years.   As the Director of CREDO, Dr. Margaret Raymond, concluded: urban charter schools are “providing superior academic learning for their students.” 

Importantly, and counter to the assertions of charter school critics, CREDO found that nationwide urban charters are “serving equal numbers of English-language learners (ELL) as well as students in poverty and special education,” as reported by EdWeek.   So it turns out that America’s urban charter school are not “skimming” the best students to attain their outperformance over TPS.

Now on to Newark.  The numbers are simply astounding: For five years, on average, Newark charter students gained approximately 160 days of additional learning per year in math and 150 days in math versus their TPS peers.[1]  Remember that there are typically only 180 days in the school year!  So Newark charter students are learning almost TWICE AS MUCH in a single year as their traditional public school peers! 

Not surprisingly then, charter schools are closing the achievement gap with white TPS students.  The average academic growth for Newark’s charter school students exceeds the average growth for white TPS students by approximately 40 days in reading and 90 days in math.  Thus black charter students have entirely closed the achievement gap with white TPS students in reading, and have significantly reduced it in math (to approximately 20 days). [2]  Likewise, charter students in Newark have significantly reduced the gap in both math and reading with the statewide average, particularly in reading.

Like their national counterparts, Newark charters are serving much the same groups of students as TPS.  84% of Newark charter students are in poverty versus 86% in TPS; 82% of charter students are black versus 50% for TPS; and 10% of charter students are special education versus 15% for TPS (there is no data for Newark charter ELLs). 

The numbers speak for themselves.  Urban America’s and Newark’s charter schools are giving traditionally disadvantaged kids a chance in life by providing them with good educations.  As USNews put it, urban districts like Newark are “producing phenomenal results for kids.”  No wonder Newark’s charter schools have a 20,000- person waitlist. 

So kudos to our urban charter schools!  Keep up the good work!

And to those who are attacking charter schools: you have a lot to answer for because you are clearly not looking out for the best interests of the kids.     

[1] CREDO does not convert effect sizes into days of learning at the state level because the computation is based on national NAEP scores and can be skewed by a limited regional sample.  However, I included the conversion (and approximated the results) to days of learning in order to convey some sense of the magnitude of the learning gains in Newark. 

[2] See Footnote 1.  

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