Charter Schools Gain Unprecedented Popularity In California, Waiting Lists Nearly Double

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — If the waiting lists are any indication, charter schools are more popular than ever before in California. The list of kids trying to get in has nearly doubled since last year.

According to a survey by California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), more than 175,000 children were on waiting lists for charter schools in the 2014/15 school year, up from about 91,000 the previous year. When the students who are on more than one charter school waiting list are taken into account, the current number jumps to more than 278,000.

California has some 1,184 charter schools statewide, more than anywhere else in the country. The CCSA survey included 297 schools in Northern California, each with average waiting lists of 96 students.

According to CCSA, parents are drawn to the “innovative approaches to teaching and learning” charter schools have to offer.

“Charter public school students are gaining extra weeks and months of learning in math and reading compared to their peers who attend traditional district schools,” said Elizabeth Robitaille, SVP of Academic and Performance Management.

According California’s Department of Finance, K through 12 public school enrollment in 2014 was 6.2 million students. About 547,000 of those students attend an independent, charter school.

“Evidence over the past five years argues that the public has never been more supportive of charter public schools than they are right now based on increasingly high parent demand, growth in charter school enrollment, and statewide polling data,” said Jed Wallace, CCSA’s president and CEO. “This growth in support has occurred during a period when charter public schools have strengthened their performance, especially with historically underserved students.”

A recent study at Stanford compared student performance at public and charter schools and found improvement rates varied along social and economic lines. The Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) found that some public schools are now outperforming charter schools.

According California’s Department of Finance, K through 12 public school enrollment in 2014 was 6.2 million students. About 547,000 of those students attend an independent, charter school.

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