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Associate Professor Anna Egalite Examines Charter School Landscape in Recently Released Paper

NC State College of Education Assistant Professor Anna Egalite speaks with students
Assistant Professor Anna Egalite, Ph.D. (left) speaks with NC State College of Education students.

NC State College of Education Associate Professor Anna Egalite, Ph.D., is providing an in-depth analysis of the current charter school landscape through a new paper published through The Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank based out of Stanford University.

In “The National Charter School Landscape,” Egalite examines enrollment statistics, variations in policy and funding for charter schools across states, and research about the impacts charter schools have on students to synthesize what is currently known about the charter school sector.

The charter school growth rate, Egalite said, has slowed from a high of 11% growth between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years to 6% growth more recently. In analyzing the factors that led to this dip in growth, Egalite said she discovered that the slow-down is likely not explained by reduction in demand, as the wait lists for existing charter schools remain long. This realization led her to take a closer look at other factors that could be impacting the sector.

“This discovery led me down the path of documenting what other factors have influenced rises and declines in national charter school growth over time. In the report, I discuss the role of state laws and regulations, differences across the states in funding streams and expansion incentives from the U.S. Department of Education under both Democratic and Republican administrations,” she said.

Charter schools are currently permitted in 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, but Egalite says in her paper that regulations and reporting requirements can vary widely from state to state.

Research has shown that, on average, students in charter schools perform about the same on academic assessments as their counterparts in district-run schools, yet charter schools have been shown to have remarkably large, positive impacts on low-income, minority students in urban areas, Egalite said. In certain regions, studies show that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college and have higher earnings by age 25 relative to statistically similar peers attending district schools.

Based on the analysis of data and literature presented in the paper, Egalite concludes by proposing six policy recommendations that could offer increased access to effective charter schools while keeping common goals, such as advancing equity, in mind:

  1. Facilitating expansion by proven providers
  2. Investing in common enrollment systems
  3. Permitting experimentation with charter schools’ approach to funding retirement benefits
  4. Codifying charter school transportation policies
  5. Relaxing teacher certification rules
  6. Paying attention to charter school authorizer quality

The goal of the paper, Egalite said, is to provide state and local policy leaders who might be interested in learning more about charter schools with an objective analysis of the current charter school landscape to inform their debates and decisions regarding what the sector should or should not look like.

“To know that there is an education reform capable of such large positive impacts for low-income and traditionally underserved students is really encouraging,” she said. “I hope to bring reliable evidence to the debate, but it’s up to elected officials how they decide to act on that.”


Anna Egalite, Ph.D., was recently promoted to the rank of associate professor, effective at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester.