In Missouri, because of the narrow availability of school choice, you have to be lucky to have access to charter schools. On the other hand, Indiana has decided school choice shouldn’t be restricted to a lucky few. Although there are still gaps in choice across the state of Indiana, the state has charter schools available statewide, a voucher program, a scholarship tax credit and a private/homeschool tax deduction to help families access educational resources. Indiana’s charter school laws have even been ranked as the strongest in the nation for three years in a row since 2016.
The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a recent study on Indianapolis charter school performance. The study tracked academic growth from the 2013-14 to the 2016-17 school years, comparing the average growth in reading and math in Indianapolis charter school students to traditional public school students.
In order to compare school performance between charter schools and traditional public schools, CREDO creates a “virtual twin” for each charter student that is a combination of similar public school students. This method considers seven characteristics (including ethnicity and income status) of a charter school student, and finds students from traditional public schools who share the same characteristics. The test scores of all the similar traditional public school students are averaged to create a growth score for the virtual twin, which is then compared to the charter student.
The CREDO study found that charter school students in Indianapolis experienced significantly more academic growth in both reading and math than traditional public school students. In the 2016-17 school year, Indianapolis charter school students gained 29 extra days of reading and 4 extra days of math compared to the state average (180 days of learning a school year). Traditional public schools were behind the state average in both subjects; 48 days behind in reading and 96 days behind in math. The difference between Indianapolis charter school students and traditional public school students is striking. Charter school students learned 100 more days of math and 77 more days of reading than the traditional public school students. That’s 20 extra weeks of math and over 15 weeks in reading for charter school students.
Charter schools also produced better results than the city’s traditional public schools for specific student groups. This held true for all the student groups the study measured: Black and Hispanic students, low-income students, English language learners and special education students.
Charter schools are helping Indianapolis students access a quality education. Why wouldn’t Missouri want the same?