Missouri has long resisted the expansion of charter schools into any suburban or rural area. Opponents of charter schools argue they threaten the success of students, but the research doesn’t support this claim.
A new study from the Fordham Institute found that a higher percentage of charter school enrollment (referred to as “charter market share”) among black and Hispanic students in large urban areas is associated with higher English language arts and math achievement. A similar result was found for Hispanic students in suburban and rural districts, and black students in rural districts. And these results are measuring overall achievement in an area—not just the students attending charter schools.
The study used data from the Stanford Education Data Archive containing student performance on NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam. The data contained scores from both charter and traditional public schools. Further analysis of the individual geographic areas in the study could help determine if the effect of competition from charters on traditional public schools varies across regions. But the study does contradict the argument that charter schools only have higher achievement because the best students transfer to charter schools. If that were the case, then overall achievement would not rise.
Charter schools in Missouri wouldn’t be a threat to traditional public schools. They could provide educational opportunity for many students who do enroll in a charter school and also boost overall achievement. Missouri shouldn’t be afraid to offer students who happen to live outside of Kansas City and St. Louis opportunities like charter schools.