California's Charter Schools are Putting African American Students on the Path to Success

July 16, 2018

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California Charter Schools are Putting African American Students on the Path to Success

We face an unfortunate truth: neighborhood, skin color, and income level still determine the kind of education children receive in California and across the nation, contributing to a persistent gap between African American and white student achievement.

Despite this problem plaguing public education, California's charter public schools are providing families of color with more choices for their child's education, allowing them the opportunity to choose the learning environment they feel is best for their child. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools open to all children and are transforming the lives of more than 48,000 African American students across the state by helping them unlock their full academic potential.

Charter public schools have become a popular choice for African American Families, as we have seen a healthy increase in enrollment since 2008 of more than 18,000 African American students at California's charter schools. In fact, in key districts across California, more African American students are choosing to attend charter public schools than traditional district schools. For example, there are more than two times the number of African American students who attend charter schools in Sacramento City Unified School District (30 percent vs. 14 percent) and San Francisco Unified School District (21 percent vs. 7 percent) than those who attend traditional public schools.

Beyond enrollment, charter schools have an important role to play in the education of African American students because kids can not only get a great education, but also build the skills and confidence needed to succeed in life beyond high school.

African American charter school students are reaching grade-level proficiency.

In 2018, a greater percentage of African American students attending California charter schools were outperforming their traditional public-school counterparts in English Language Arts and Math in seven out of eight major school districts in California, as well as statewide. These strong academic results may be because across California, African American students gain 22 more days learning reading and seven more days learning math at charter schools than at traditional public schools.

African American charter school students are graduating at high rates across the state.

In the 2017-18 school year, while California charter schools needed to make progress on helping African American students graduate from high school in four years, in half of the eight major school districts we reviewed, African American charter school students were more likely to graduate from high school in four years than compared to their TPS counterparts:

  • 96 percent of African American students attending San Francisco Unified School District charter high schools graduated (versus 80 percent at traditional public schools);
  • 95 percent of African American students attending Sacramento City Unified School District charter high schools graduated (versus 83 percent at traditional public schools);
  • 91 percent of African American students attending San Diego Unified School District charter high schools graduated (versus 87 percent at traditional public schools); and,
  • 73 percent of African American students attending Oakland Unified School District charter high schools graduated (versus 71 percent at traditional public schools).

Charter schools are creating a college going culture for African American students.

Overall, charter schools are doing a better job preparing African American students to attend a four-year college as California's African American charter school students are more likely to complete all college prep courses required to attend a four-year university, known as A-G courses.

In the 2015-16 academic year, 42 percent of African American charter high school graduates completed high school "college ready" (meaning they completed A-G requirements), compared to 35 percent of students at traditional public schools. In fact, when you look at West Contra Costa, 100 percent of African American high school graduates completed A-G requirements at charter schools, compared to only 31 percent at West Contra Costa traditional public schools.

Every child, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin, deserves the opportunity to attend a great public school that meets their academic needs and places them on the path to success. We must do more to increase access to public schools that provide a safe, structured, and nurturing environment for all students so that they can focus on what matters most: their learning.