A study released Tuesday by researchers at Stanford University finds that in comparison to other groups minority students and those from poor families benefit the most from charter schools. The report expanded on 2009 findings comparing student performance.

When broken down into groups, the study showed that black students gained the equivalent of 14 days of learning by attending charter schools but that black students living in poverty saw even greater benefits, the equivalent of 29 days in reading and 36 days in math. Hispanic English-language learners saw even higher gains, though Hispanics in general scored similarly to Hispanics in traditional public schools.

White charter school students posted lower growth scores in reading and math than traditional public school peers, the study found. But noting a trend toward specialty charter schools in affluent white communities, the reading and math scores alone may not paint a full picture of the schools' performance, researchers said. Students may have started out above average and showed smaller gains in those subjects while gaining in other areas such as language or arts, they said.

According to Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes Director Margaret Raymond the improvement was boosted by the closure of schools that had been underperforming. 

"The results reveal that the charter school sector is getting better on average and that charter schools are benefiting low-income, disadvantaged and special-education students," CREDO Director Margaret Raymond said.

Researchers did not look into why specific groups benefited more, but charter schools' greater freedom to direct resources toward specific needs was seen as a factor.

CREDO's report, summarized in its press release, called for policymakers to hold charter schools accountable to higher standards while building an evidence base about "what plans, what models, what personnel attributes, and what internal systems provide appropriate signals that lead to high-performing schools." In the meantime, it argues that charter authorizers should continue closing low-performing schools.

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