As we end the third year of school affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is heading in the wrong direction regarding supporting solutions proven to accelerate student learning. Proposed updates to the Charter School Program that could severely limit the growth of high-quality charter schools go against a growing body of research that proves charter schools are leading students to superior academic gains.
Two decades ago, Indiana’s first charter schools opened their doors. Today, more than 23,000 students, or almost 53 percent of students who attend public schools within Indianapolis Public School boundaries, now attend charter schools. The vast majority of these students are children of color and are from low-income households.
Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) provides the most recent evidence in a new study of the academic performance of public charter and district-managed public schools within the boundaries of Indiana’s largest school district. Building on results from previous studies, CREDO again found significant learning gains for Indianapolis charter school students compared to their peers in local district-managed schools.
CREDO’s newest study covered the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. In the most recent year of the study, students in Indianapolis charter schools achieved academic growth equivalent to 64 days of additional learning in reading and 116 days of further learning in math relative to their local district-managed public school peers. Notably, Indianapolis charter school students are now achieving reading and math growth that surpassed the statewide public school average.
CREDO’s study demonstrates that Indianapolis charter schools are leading Black, Hispanic, low-income, special education students, and English language learners to more academic progress than those who attend local, traditional public schools.
Based on the experience in Indianapolis, we know students thrive when they can access a school that best fits their needs. Limiting the growth of new charter schools will give Washington bureaucrats more say in local educational decisions than educators and families who know their students’ needs best.
The Biden administration should double down on efforts to grow quality schools that provide life-changing opportunities for children, not stifle them. Federal leaders should follow the example of past administrations from both sides of the aisle that retained flexibility for local communities to make decisions and create schools that best fit what families demand.
The growth of high-quality charter school options in Indianapolis has been supported by much-needed start-up funding from the Charter School Program. The academic growth demonstrated in this latest Stanford study results from years of hard work and collaboration between local schools, educators and community partners made possible through federal support. We should celebrate these results and continue to advance solutions that can create a truly excellent school system.
Will the administration continue to ignore the educational desires of historically marginalized families, or will the president and his team fulfill their stated commitment to racial equity? The future of millions of children and their families hinges on the answer.