Should Public Funds be Used for Charter Schools? DC as a Case Study

April 2016

The number of charter schools in the United States has been increasing rapidly since the first charter school was established in Minnesota in 1992. DC’s first charter school was opened in 1995 and since then more parents, educators, and policy makers have argued that charter schools create a free market for education and improve student achievement. These publicly funded schools cannot accept every student, making it important to evaluate whether these claims are valid. Using DC public and charter school student achievement data from 2012-2014, the authors conducted an analysis on the performance of students on the Math and Reading DC-CAS assessment to study how the scores differ between public schools and charter schools. Initial results indicate that charter schools are associated with higher student achievement; however, two major drawbacks are present in our design. Because of the drawbacks in our data source, our analysis is inconclusive as to whether or not charter schools represent a good investment.