The strongest results were in Florida and Texas. In just one year in a Texas charter school, an average student gained 7 percentile points in math and 8 percentile points in reading, while Florida charter schools improved student performance by 6 percentile points. The researchers conclude by cautioning against "too much enthusiasm regarding the benefits of charter schools. The results of our study strongly support the conclusion that untargeted charter schools are somewhat better than regular public schools serving similar populations, but not a great deal better."
But a 3 percentile-point gain in one year is extremely significant, if this rate of improvement continues. If the educational gains hold (a 3 percentile-point improvement each year), a poor kid who starts out in the 50th percentile in first-grade math in a charter school will be in the upper third in academic achievement by sixth grade.
More research is clearly needed. Meanwhile, parents, students and teachers all report higher satisfaction with charter schools. People like them. They cost less money. They raise the academic achievement of poor kids. Go ahead, get a little enthused.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.