Analysis: Arizona leads in academic growth — and both charter and district schools contribute to student success

Special to redefinED

Editor’s note: This commentary from redefinED executive editor Matthew Ladner appeared Wednesday on The 74.

In 2001, the Manhattan Institute ranked states by their combination of public charter, private and home-school choice. Arizona ranked first.

In 2015, the Brookings Institution measured the percentage of students who had access to one or more charter schools in their zip code. Arizona ranked first in the nation, with 84 percent of students with a charter in their zip code.

A 2017 analysis of Phoenix-area district enrollment patterns found open enrollment transfer students outnumbering charter students. More recently, I had the opportunity to revise the 2001 Manhattan Institute ranking with the author of the original study and two colleagues from the University of Arkansas. Arizona ranked first again in overall education freedom.

The University of Arkansas’s statistical analysis of state academic data found a positive and statistically significant relationship between additional K-12 options for parents and improved student academic performance. Separately from these efforts, Stanford University’s Opportunity Project linked state achievement data from across the country, allowing comparisons of academic proficiency and growth for schools, districts and the charters operating within them, counties and states as a whole.

The project recently released new data including the 2017-18 school year, and there was again good news for Arizona. The state led the nation in student growth overall, and for growth among low-income students.

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