Charter Schools Better for Low-Income Students

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Research suggests that charter schools are better than public schools for low-income, nonwhite students in urban areas:

This pattern — positive results in low-income city neighborhoods, zero to negative results in relatively affluent suburbs — holds in lottery studies in Massachusetts as well in a national study of charter schools funded by the Education Department.

My own research, conducted with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, shows that charter schools in Boston produced huge gains in test scores. A majority of students at Boston’s charters are African-American and poor. Their score gains are large enough to reduce the black-white score gap in Boston’s middle schools by two-thirds.

Boston’s charters also do a better job at preparing students for college. Charter students are twice as likely to take an Advanced Placement exam as similar students in Boston’s other public schools. Ten percent of charter students pass an A.P. calculus test, compared with just 1 percent of similar students in other public schools. This stronger preparation means that these charter students are far more likely than similar students in traditional public schools to attend a four-year college.


  1. Bomag says:

    There still seems to be some selection bias, in that they followed participants in lotteries for selective charters. The winners did better than the losers, apparently, but it appears to be a group more motivated to improve themselves in a new setting.

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