Charter Schools

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Charter schools have become a prominent alternative to traditional public schools in the quest to improve K–12 education. RAND has conducted empirical, evidence-based research of charter schools across the United States to assess how charter schools affect the student population of traditional public schools and to understand the effects on student achievement and test scores in both charter schools and public schools.

Explore Charter Schools

  • Blog

    What Do We Know About Charter Schools? Moving Beyond the Talking Points

    Since their inception in 1992, charter schools have been a lightning rod for controversy in the education policy world. Research highlights the importance of moving beyond test scores and broadening the scope of measures that evaluate success in order to fully assess the performance of charter schools.

    Apr 4, 2013

  • Periodical

    Policy Decisions for Better Schools Should Be Based on Evidence

    Both President Obama and Governor Romney have argued that while NCLB's goals of holding schools accountable and shrinking the achievement gap are admirable, the law is in dire need of adjustment. Both platforms do appear to be largely based on existing evidence from education research, with a few caveats.

    Sep 21, 2012

  • Blog

    Remaking a School System in the Wake of Natural Disaster

    In this Resilient Communities podcast, Jennifer Steele discusses the differences in policies and practices between charter and traditional schools in New Orleans, where charter-based reform spread in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

    May 17, 2012

  • Multimedia

    Remaking a School System in the Wake of Natural Disaster

    In this Resilient Communities podcast, Jennifer Steele, a policy researcher whose work with her RAND colleague Georges Vernez and with Tulane University's Cowen Institute, has examined New Orleans's charter and district-run schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Policymakers responded to the storm's destruction by transforming the New Orleans Public Schools into a decentralized system composed mostly of charter schools.

    May 15, 2012

  • Research Brief

    Perceptions of Charter and Traditional Schools in New Orleans

    RAND researchers found many similarities between charter and traditional schools in New Orleans but greater satisfaction among charter school parents with their children's schools, as well as more perceived choices.

    Oct 5, 2011

  • Report

    Perceptions of Traditional and Charter Schools in New Orleans

    After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans replaced the city's existing school system with a decentralized choice-based system of both charter and district-run schools. An examination of principal, teacher, and parent surveys found many similarities between charter and traditional schools' performance but greater satisfaction among charter school parents with their children's schools, as well as more perceived choices.

    Oct 5, 2011

  • Journal Article

    The Central Office in a Decentralized System

    As the charter school movement has come to scale within the United States, it poses new questions about how to govern public education. With a significant rural contingent, charter schools are no longer just an urban phenomenon. Partly in response to the growth in charter schools, Paul Hill, director ...

    Dec 1, 2010

  • Journal Article

    Expanding What Counts When Evaluating Charter School Effectiveness

    The message of this chapter is that it is possible to expand the way we measure school outcomes to better reflect the goals of charter schools, thus providing more useful information for students, parents, school administrators, and policy makers, all of whom make decisions that influence the success of charter schools.

    Jan 1, 2010

  • Research Brief

    Understanding the Role of Charter Schools in Improving Education

    Charter schools are increasing in numbers as alternatives to traditional public schools, and research shows some associated positive effects on student attainment. RAND recommends that the federal government support further investigation.

    Mar 27, 2009

  • Research Brief

    Are Charter Schools Making a Difference? A Study of Student Outcomes in Eight States

    Charter schools do not generally draw the top students from other public schools. Their test-score gains are similar to those of traditional public schools, but they have higher rates of students graduating high school and attending college.

    Mar 20, 2009

  • News Release

    How Charter Schools Affect Student Outcomes

    While the number of charter schools continues to grow, debate continues about whether charter schools provide a better education experience than traditional public schools. Proponents contend that charter schools expand educational choices for students, improve student achievement and provide much-needed competition to public schools.

    Mar 18, 2009

  • Report

    Charter School Students in Chicago Enjoy Better Graduation, College Entry Rates

    Chicago's multi-grade charter high schools (those serving students in grades 7-12, 6-12 or K-12) appear to improve their students' chances of graduating and attending college, as compared with the city's traditional public high schools.

    Mar 13, 2009

  • Report

    What Are the Effects of Charter Schools on Educational Attainment in Eight States?

    Along with the growth of the charter school movement has come contentious debate about its effects on both charter students and those in nearby traditional public schools. This study helps determine why previous research has drawn differing conclusions through its examination of charter schools' effect on overall educational attainment.

    Mar 8, 2009

  • News Release

    Charter School Students in Chicago Enjoy Better Graduation, College Entry Rates

    Chicago's multi-grade charter high schools (those serving students in grades 7-12, 6-12 or K-12) appear to improve their students' chances of graduating and attending college, as compared with the city's traditional public high schools.

    May 7, 2008

  • Research Brief

    Achievement and Attainment in Chicago Charter Schools: A Summary

    This research brief summarizes research finding that students attending ''multigrade'' charter high schools in Chicago attain substantially higher rates of graduation and college entry than do students in traditional public high schools.

    Apr 17, 2008

  • Report

    What Do We Know About Vouchers and Charter Schools?

    Vouchers and charter schools are two of the most prominent and far-reaching forms of family-choice policies currently in evidence in the nation's schools. An updated version of the report Rhetoric Versus Reality takes a detailed look at what is known about the effects of school choice.

    Jul 17, 2007

  • Journal Article

    Charter Schools in California

    This chapter summarizes a series of studies the authors have conducted over the last 4 years that evaluate the effectiveness of California charter schools.

    Jan 1, 2007

  • Journal Article

    Getting Inside the Black Box: Examining How the Operation of Charter Schools Affects Performance

    In recent years, a series of articles have examined the performance of charter schools with mixed results.

    Jan 1, 2007

  • Testimony

    Assessing the Effectiveness of California Charter Schools

    Testimony presented to the California Select Committee on the Master Plan for Education on August 1, 2006.

    Jul 27, 2006