The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

December 10, 2015 05:30 ET

Fraser Institute News Release: Canadian Provinces Ignoring Potential Benefits of Charter Schools

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Dec. 10, 2015) - While the number of students attending charter schools in the United States has grown dramatically over the past decade, Alberta remains the only province in Canada with legislation allowing such schools, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, A Primer on Charter Schools, spotlights the growth in and outcomes of charter schools -autonomous public schools that provide alternative pedagogies and curriculum.

"Research from the U.S. suggests that charter schools have done an effective job in educating disadvantaged students. If provinces in Canada are interested in improving student performance, they should at least be looking at charter school as an alternative," said Deani Van Pelt, director of the Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the study.

In the United States, the number of students attending charter schools jumped almost seven fold since 1999.

As of 2013, it's estimated that 2.27 million students (4.4 per cent of the student population in the 43 U.S. jurisdictions that allow charter schools) now attend a charter school.

"These figures point to a growing number of American families who feel their child's interests are best served by an education program that occurs largely outside of a traditional public school setting," Van Pelt said.

The study also references the mounting academic literature about charter schools in the United States. It finds that while the design and structure of charter schools varies widely across the United States, they are particularly effective in improving performance for those students who are underserved by traditional public schools - students who are disadvantaged by poverty, minority status, poor baseline performance and low parental education.

What about charter schools in Canada?

To date, Alberta remains the only province with legislation allowing these autonomous public schools that operate outside of local school boards. Currently 13 charter schools are in operation - spread over 20 campuses - with mandates that include the arts, music, and science.

The number of charter schools in Alberta remains tightly controlled. The cap permitting 15 charter schools has not been increased since its initial implementation.

As a result, the growth rate of students attending charter schools in Canada is much lower than it is in the United States. Since 1999-00, charter school enrolments in Alberta rose from 2,073 to 8,418 in 2012/13 (equivalent to 1.4 per cent of the province's student population).

"Policymakers and educators in the United States have embraced charter schools offering parents and students more choice within the public school system," said Lynn Bosetti, professor at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the study.

"Unfortunately, outside of Alberta, Canadian policy makers have largely ignored the potential benefits of charter schools."

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org

Contact Information

  • Media Contacts:
    Deani Van Pelt
    Director
    Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education
    The Fraser Institute

    Lynn Bosetti
    Senior Fellow
    The Fraser Institute

    For media interviews with Ms. Bosetti or Ms. Van Pelt:
    Aanand Radia
    Media Relations Specialist, The Fraser Institute
    (416) 363-6575 ext. 238
    aanand.radia@FraserInstitute.org
    www.fraserinstitute.org