Something to remember in the debate over charter schools in Montana

Montana is one of the last states without charter schools, but that may be about to change. Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a pair of bills into law that establish separate and distinct charter school systems in the state — one widely embraced by Republican legislators and advocates of past charter school efforts, and the other supported by the bulk of Montana’s public education organizations as well as a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.

But there is a new report that should be kept in mind as Democrats in the state seek to challenge the new law. From the Wall Street Journal.

Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (Credo) report is the third in a series (2009, 2013, 2023) tracking charter-school outcomes over 15 years. The study is one of the largest ever conducted, covering over two million charter students in 29 states, New York City and Washington, D.C., and a control group in traditional public schools.

Credo’s judgment is unequivocal: Most charter schools “produce superior student gains despite enrolling a more challenging student population.” In reading and math, “charter schools provide their students with stronger learning when compared to the traditional public schools.” The nationwide gains for charter students were six days in math and 16 days in reading. 

The comparisons in some states are more remarkable. In New York, charter students were 75 days ahead in reading and 73 days in math compared with traditional public-school peers. In Illinois they were 40 days ahead in reading and 48 in math. In Washington state, 26 days ahead in reading and 39 in math. Those differences can add up to an extra year of learning across an entire elementary education. . . . Editorial Board, "Charter Schools: New Evidence of Student Success," Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2023.