Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), charter schools, charter school, alternative education, education options, GA schools, GA education, ga learning

Charter schools outshine the traditional public school model, Stanford University report finds

Key Points

  • Research shows between years 2014 and 2019, charter school students were more advanced in math and reading than their public school counterparts. 
  • Students  who experienced the greatest benefits were black and Hispanic student.
  • The data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools.

When it comes to favorable education outcomes, charter schools consistently outshine the traditional public school system. 

According to an annual report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), between the years 2014 and 2019, charter school students were more advanced in math and reading than their public school counterparts. CREDO’s research concluded that over the course of a year, those gains equated to an extra six math learning days, and 16 extra reading days, above what public school students receive. 

In terms of performance, 83% of charter school students had stronger reading skills than their counterparts in public school. Seventy-five percent of students in charter schools had higher math performance. 

This is CREDO’s third study on charter schools since 2000. It covered 6,200 schools in 29 states. CREDO used data from standardized tests to obtain its findings.

“It’s clear that charter schools benefit Georgia families by offering a crucial alternative to a traditional public school,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy for the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “We can add this CREDO study to a growing body of research bearing this out.”


Charter schools benefit marginalized students most

According to the data in the CREDO report, marginalized students benefited the most from charter schools’ curricula and practices. Of these students, those who experienced the greatest benefits were black and Hispanic students, students enrolled in English-as-a-second-language programs, and students living in poverty. 

CREDO concluded that black charter school students experienced approximately 35 days of additional progress in reading, and for math, 29 days. These results added up to an extra month and a half of learning per school year. 

It’s crucial that those responsible for students’ wellbeing, from the family to the highest levels of government, take note of these findings. If we want to offer historically marginalized students their best possible educational opportunities, then we must consider making charter schools more accessible than ever before.


“Over time, the data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools.”

“Over time, the data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools.”

High-quality charter school networks have consistently performed better over time

Over time, the data shows that charter schools have consistently performed better than public schools. CREDO’s research team ultimately ran three studies from 2000 to 2023 to prove that an established pattern existed. With this year’s data in hand, it’s safe to say that charter schools continue to perform well, and the future is looking bright. 

Researchers at CREDO took their initial 2014-2019 time frame and expanded it to cover the years 2009 through 2023. They then compared it to national public school performance. Again, the results remained consistent, with outcomes continuing to track positively for charter school students. 

It’s also important to note the boom in charter school enrollment since 2019. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment at charter schools jumped by seven percent between fall 2019 and fall 2020 (the start of the pandemic). By the same token, public school enrollment dropped by four percent during that time. 

This increase in demand, combined with emerging data about charter school performance, indicates that we may continue to see charter schools rising in popularity well into the future. 


Georgia opted out of this year’s study. Why?

Although Georgia participated in CREDO’s previous two studies, the state opted out of this year’s study. It’s unfortunate, given that Georgia’s charter schools are improving education, graduation rates, and career opportunities for students all over the state. With additional positive data from Georgia in hand, we may have seen even further success reflected in the CREDO study.

That being said, we do have some Georgia specific data to share. The State Charter School Commission (SCSC) compared state authorized charter school growth scores to the growth scores of traditional public schools the students would otherwise attend, following the CREDO study methodology.


  • Charter school academic growth compared to local traditional schools is rising nationally. The number of state charter schools in Georgia with higher progress scores than the local traditional schools increased from 2015 to 2019, with over half outperforming in the most recent school year for which data are available 2021-2022.


  • Students of color perform better in charter schools. Nationally, the academic performance of Black and Hispanic students attending charters grew by large margins relative to their peers attending traditional public schools. In Georgia, the share of majority-minority state charter schools outperforming their local traditional school comparisons rose dramatically from 17 percent to 60 percent between 2015 and 2019.


  • Charter schools yield better academic performance for students living in poverty. From 2015 to 2019, the academic progress of charter school students living in poverty nationwide surpassed that of their peers attending traditional public schools. In 2015, Georgia had 11 state charter schools serving large populations of economically disadvantaged students, and only one had higher growth scores than the traditional local schools. However, by 2019, the number climbed to eight out of 17.


  • The instructional delivery model matters and varies by location. At the national level, student performance in fully online charter schools floundered across the five-year period compared to traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Conversely, in Georgia, virtual state charters showed significant progress during the same period. By 2021-2022, both statewide virtual charter schools outperformed their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts in several grades.


The SCSC analysis mirrors the result of the CREDO study in all areas except one: Georgia’s virtual charter schools are performing better than virtual charter schools nationally.


Wrapping up

It’s essential that every participating state share their outcomes whenever possible. Studies like the one conducted by CREDO provide families and government entities with the compelling, factual information they need to make informed decisions. For families, that decision may mean the choice between a traditional public school and a higher-performing charter school that opens up new opportunities for their students.

For government entities, having plenty of hard data in hand to support charter schools could make it much easier for states to open up charter school access to more students. When states opt out of providing this all-important information, children ultimately suffer most.

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