In a March speech on education policy, President Barack Obama championed charter schools, praising their innovations and urging states to lift caps on their growth. A new RAND Corporation study, Charter Schools in Eight States: Effects on Achievement, Attainment, Integration, and Competition, bolsters the case for lifting the cap on charters.
More than 4,600 charter schools serve 1.4 million of the nation's 56 million public school students. The RAND paper examines charter schools in Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Diego, and the states of Florida, Ohio, and Texas. While it finds no significant difference in achievement gains between charters and regular public schools, it finds that charter students are seven to 15 percent more likely to graduate high school and eight to 10 percent more likely to enroll in college. The study also finds that, contrary to a common charge, charter schools do not skim the top students off the population that would have attended traditional public schools. In fact, in many locations students transferring to charter schools have below-average test scores.