As we usher in a new year, charter schools continue to stand as beacons of innovation and excellence in the education landscape. This year highlighted the impact and potential of charter schools in shaping the future of education.
Take a look at some of the accomplishments and success stories that have unfolded in the charter school sector throughout the year.
In 2023, charter schools have once again demonstrated their commitment to academic excellence. Across the nation, students in charter schools have consistently outperformed their peers in traditional public schools.
The 2023-2024 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings—which evaluated nearly 18,000 public high schools on criteria such as student performance, college preparedness, and graduation rates—named 21 charter high schools on its list of top 100 public high schools. Despite only serving 7% of all public school students, charter schools secured over 20% of the top 100 spots, vastly outperforming traditional high schools. The rankings serve as a clear testament to the exceptional dedication and effectiveness of charter school educators, students, and families.
New research released this year by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University examined standardized testing data from 1.8 million students at 6,200 public charter schools and found that charter school students vastly outperformed their peers at traditional public schools. The advantage resulted in charter students gaining an equivalent of 16 days of learning in reading and 6 days in math.
Innovative Teaching Methods
One of the hallmarks of charter schools is their ability to adopt innovative teaching methods. This year served as the first full school year where students had broad access to artificial intelligence (AI), and many charter schools embraced this technology to enhance the learning experience.
The Da Vinci Schools, a network of charter schools in Los Angeles, have used AI to develop a personalized learning tool. Project Leo is a learning platform designed with input from students and teachers that “gives students the freedom to build projects that truly inspire them while getting feedback from teachers, professionals, and peers throughout the process.” Kūlia Academy, a public charter school in Honolulu that will be the first school in the U.S. to provide a comprehensive 6-year artificial intelligence and data science education, was founded this year and began enrolling students with plans to open the next school year. Provident Charter School, which operates two schools in western Pennsylvania and serves students with dyslexia and other language-based learning differences, partnered with LUCA.ai to create highly personalized reading solutions for students and families. Additionally, Provident Charter School is offering a course based on MIT curricular resources that allows students to “explore AI and its far-reaching societal impacts in our world.”
Innovation at charter schools, however, is not just technological. Some innovations are simple as building the confidence and strength of the students you serve through simple affirmations. Such was the case in Brooklyn’s Excellence Boys Charter School, where performing arts teacher Ivan Marrero encouraged social and emotional learning. Mr. Marrero and two of his students were featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show, where they explained how this one simple teaching method can have a positive impact on boys.
These initiatives underscore the charter school sector’s dedication to fostering an educational environment that prepares students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Charter schools have been at the forefront of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in education since their founding. Nearly 70% of the student population in charter schools is comprised of students of color compared to 53% of district public schools, making it more important that their teachers and school leaders reflect that diversity. Charter schools have more teachers of color with 32% of charter school teachers being individuals of color compared to 19% of district school teachers. Charter schools also have more principals of color with 33% of charter school principals being individuals of color compared to 22% of district school principals.
By ensuring that teachers and school leaders better reflect the communities that they serve, charter schools are improving outcomes for their students. Education Week, in examining the CREDO Stanford study, wrote: “Black charter school students had 35 more days in reading growth and 29 more days in math growth than Black students in traditional public schools” and “Hispanic charter school students also outpaced their peers, gaining 30 days in reading and 19 days in math over Hispanic students in traditional public schools.”
Furthermore: “Black and Hispanic students in poverty had even stronger results. Black charter students in poverty gained 37 days of learning in reading and 36 days in math over their counterparts in traditional public schools, and Hispanic students in poverty gained 36 days of reading and 30 days of math over their traditional public school peers.”
This data affirms the transformative potential charter schools hold in narrowing educational disparities and fostering academic excellence for all students.
Listening to Teachers
This summer, the National Alliance partnered with The Harris Poll on a survey of 1,200 public school teachers, both district and charter, to learn more about what motivates them, what challenges them, and how they think we might improve aspects of the profession. Eighty percent of charter school teachers say they are as or more motivated than when they initially entered the profession, whereas 66% of district teachers report feeling less motivated now than before. A full 96% of charter school teachers report feeling aligned with their current school’s culture in terms of values and beliefs about education.
About 4 in 5 teachers agree that regardless of its politicized nature, public school choice is important for both families and teachers and more than two-thirds agree that having more than one type of public school option is a good thing.
The achievements of charter schools in 2023 underscore their vital role in redefining the landscape of education. As we celebrate the academic excellence, innovation, and commitment to diversity exhibited by charter schools, it becomes evident that these schools are not only meeting but exceeding the expectations set for them.
Daniel Tellez is the marketing manager for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.