Charter School Performance in Urban Districts

Are They Closing the Achievement Gap?

by Ron Zimmer, Richard Buddin

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Abstract

In the national effort to improve educational achievement, urban districts offer the greatest challenge as they often serve the most disadvantaged students. Many urban leaders, including mayors and school district superintendents, have initiated charter schools, which are publicly supported, autonomously operated schools of choice, as a mechanism of improving learning for these disadvantaged students. In this analysis, the authors examine the effect charter schools are having on student achievement generally, and on different demographic groups, in two major urban districts in California. The results show that achievement scores in charters are keeping pace, but not exceeding those in traditional public schools. The findings also show that the charter effect does not vary systematically with the race/ethnicity or English proficiency status of students.

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