Washington Charter Schools Demonstrate Comparable Performance to Other Public Schools, According to State Report

A recent report released by the State Board of Education reveals that charter school students in Washington are achieving equal to or better than their counterparts in traditional public schools. The findings from the 2022-2023 school year indicate that Black and Hispanic students, English learners, and students from low-income families are consistently outperforming their peers in charter schools compared to those in traditional public schools.

The report, authored by Andrew Parr, the research director of the State Board of Education, highlighted that charter school students across various demographics showed statistically and significantly higher improvement in English language arts and math when compared to their counterparts in traditional public schools.

“I think that’s the single most important thing I saw,” stated Parr, emphasizing the notable academic progress observed in charter school students.

Washington currently operates 18 charter schools, serving approximately 5,000 students statewide. This is a small fraction of the total public school population, which stands at around one million students.

Washington’s charter school law is distinguished by its focus on racial equity, with 62% of students in charter schools being individuals of color, compared to slightly over 50% in general public schools, as reported by the Washington State Charters School Association.

The latest report coincides with the scrutiny faced by Why Not You Academy, a Des Moines charter school founded by former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, following allegations of a tumultuous environment that were reported by the Seattle Times.

While charter school students performed on par or better than students in traditional public schools in statewide tests conducted in spring 2023, the report indicated that charter school students exhibit lower rates of regular school attendance when compared to their peers in traditional public schools.

Additionally, charter school students are less likely to engage in dual credit courses, a disparity attributed to funding limitations resulting from a state Supreme Court ruling that restricts charter schools from accessing local levy funds.

The report recommends bolstering state funding for charter schools and expanding the authorization of new charter schools, a move that is currently restricted by state law.

Despite criticisms that charter schools can divert financial resources from traditional public schools, Parr contends that charter schools can spur improvement in public schools by fostering healthy competition.

While the impact of charter schools on public school funding varies by state policy and community dynamics, the Legislature in Washington allocated $7.8 million to charter schools this year, providing $1,500 per student. Parr advocates for the continuity of this funding to support charter schools in the future.

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