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Do Charter Schools Help Their Students?

Thursday October 2004


Caroline Minter Hoxby Professor of Economics, Harvard University

A recent and controversial New York Times story has ignited a smoldering debate: do students enrolled in charter schools—which now educate 600,000 students nationwide and over 7,000 in New York City—perform as well as students attending traditional public schools? The Times story, using data provided by the American Federation of Teachers and drawn from U.S. Department of Education data, suggested they do not. But other reports from the Brookings Institution and the Progressive Policy Institute paint a rosier picture. Who is correct?

Caroline Minter Hoxby is the nation’s leading academic researcher of the effects of school reform policies on academic outcomes. Her recently released report examined the test results for 99% of fourth-graders enrolled in charter schools nationwide and compared them to test results for fourth-graders enrolled in the public school closest to their charter school. Her findings—that charter school students outperform those enrolled in traditional public schools—are sure to influence this ongoing debate.