Charter Schools


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.

  • African-American science teacher and female chemistry student


    Are Charter Schools a Good Option in the Gulf States?

    Aug 21, 2012

    In an effort to improve public education, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama have each examined the potential of charter schools. For nearly two decades, RAND has conducted objective, evidence-based research on choice-based education reforms to help education policymakers make the right decisions for their communities.

Explore Charter Schools

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: July-August 2017

    This issue highlights recent RAND research on the prevalence and burden of chronic health conditions; on the economic benefits of U.S. overseas security commitments; and on what RAND is doing to anticipate emerging global security challenges.

    Jul 11, 2017

  • Research Brief

    Observations and Guidance on Implementing Personalized Learning

    Schools implementing personalized learning were pursuing a wide variety of approaches and students closed achievement gaps relative to national norms. Observed challenges to implementation lead to recommendations for implementers.

    Jul 10, 2017

  • A teacher and four students looking at a laptop


    Personalized Learning: Lessons from Implementation

    Personalized learning focuses on meeting students' individual needs while incorporating their interests and preferences. What does this look like in schools that have implemented personalized learning schoolwide?

    Jul 10, 2017

  • Research Brief

    Does School Choice Mean Students Attend Better Schools? The Case of Post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans

    Researchers examined school choice outcomes in New Orleans following 2005's Hurricane Katrina, including exit patterns of students across sectors and school types in New Orleans and the destination schools of mobile students.

    Jun 22, 2017

  • A student sits on the floor with a laptop and notebooks

    Research Brief

    Online Schools in Ohio: Examining Enrollment and Success

    Who attends e-schools in Ohio? How do they perform compared with students in brick-and-mortar schools? And what do policymakers and educators need to know going forward?

    Jun 8, 2017

  • Journal Article

    Student Enrollment Patterns and Achievement in Ohio's Online Charter Schools

    We utilize state data of nearly 1.7 million students in Ohio to study a specific sector of online education: K–12 schools that deliver most, if not all, education online, lack a brick-and-mortar presence, and enroll students full-time.

    Mar 28, 2017

  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (center) and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (left) emerge with Betsy DeVos after a meeting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 19, 2016


    Making American Education Great Will Require More Than Charter Schools

    The nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education has shone a spotlight on charter schools. While charters could become an important part of a great education system, this burst of attention poses a risk that other issues will be ignored.

    Dec 13, 2016

  • A young boy waits to get on the school bus

    Journal Article

    School Choice, Student Mobility, and School Quality: Evidence from Post-Katrina New Orleans

    This paper analyzes student mobility in post-Katrina New Orleans between and within the various sectors and school types using a multinomial framework.

    Nov 24, 2015

  • two preschool children using colored pencils


    Narrowing the Income Achievement Gap

    The achievement gap between children from the highest- and lowest-income families has substantially grown since 1960. The income achievement gap is now about twice the size of the black-white achievement gap.

    Jun 12, 2014

  • two elementary students with a teacher


    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

  • Resilient Communities Audio Podcast


    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 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

  • teacher and student at chalkboard


    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 ...

    Nov 30, 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.

    Dec 31, 2009

  • teacher calling on students

    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