New Report finds Charter Schools Leveraged Independence, Flexibility to Launch Distance Learning Initiatives More Quickly Than District Schools, Mitigating Learning Loss


November 10, 2020 SACRAMENTO—The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) today released a new report: How California Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Loss that finds when California schools were forced to close due to COVID-19, charter public schools leveraged their independence and flexibility in budgeting and staffing to transition to distance learning programs much quicker than their traditional district public school counterparts, allowing for more underserved students to stay on track academically.

“The ability of charter public schools to quickly pivot resulted in more underserved students staying on track academically last year, and being more prepared heading into the 2020-21 academic year,” said Myrna Castrejón, CCSA president and CEO. “Free from bureaucracy, California charter schools are uniquely positioned to deliver high-quality learning opportunities to teach students and support families in this unprecedented time of crisis.”

On average, surveyed charter schools report that in just four days, they were able to implement distance learning programs to help teachers teach and students learn. Traditional district schools rolled out similar programs on average of two weeks after the statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020.

Data also shows that charter schools who responded quickly served a larger percentage of low-income students compared to traditional district schools helping these kids stay on track academically.

California charter schools are public, independently operated, free, and open to all students.

How California’s Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Loss is the first installment in CCSA’s annual Portrait of the Movement report. This year, Portrait of the Movement 2020 is comprised of four reports that explore how charter schools in California responded to challenges brought on by the pandemic. The other reports will be released in the coming weeks (see What’s Next below).

Collectively, Portrait of the Movement 2020 offers the first glimpse at the performance of charter schools in the Golden State during one of the most historic times in U.S. history. Other published reports have examined the issue nationally or through independent case studies in other states.

“Existing reports on how charters transitioned to remote learning during COVID-19 tend to look at charter schools nationwide and focus on key lessons from a few charters schools and networks. Our report is based on responses from over 30% of charter schools in California,” said Jennifer Kress, CCSA Director of Research who authored the report. “We believe families see the value that charter public schools bring to their communities because they are able to adapt to changing circumstances with a focus on equity and quality.”

One example of a successful education model highlighted in the report is Springs Charter Schools as a bright spot in the realm of distance learning. Springs is a network of six nonclassroom-based charter schools serving students in Riverside and San Diego counties. With more than 10,000 students attending mostly independent study programs, Springs knows how to provide quality remote instruction at scale.  

How California Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Loss outlines evidence-based best practices and strategies utilized by Springs which CCSA believes can be beneficial for all schools to consider and learn from, including:

Assistant Classroom Educators (ACEs) – Online teacher assistants who attend live classes and set-up meetings with individual students or small groups for more personalized online instruction.

Flipped online classrooms – In this model, a teacher shares recorded lectures ahead of time, and students use online classroom time for conversation, small group discussion, and other engaging activities.  

Open Classroom – An online public portal offering free daily online lessons, parent guides and resources aligned to Common Core State Standards. At Springs, over 6,000 people from across the country, and around the world (including as far away as France, Australia, India, Poland, Japan, and Afghanistan) signed up for this resource.

“We are grateful to CCSA for recognizing our talents and strengths as a leader in remote instruction. These best practices can build the capacity of both charter schools and public schools as we all work to meet the needs of kids and families,” Springs Charter Schools Superintendent Kathleen Hermsmeyer said.

To access the full report, How California’s Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Lossclick here.

What’s Next: Portrait of the Movement 2020 Report Series – Upcoming Releases

Digital Divide — Focus: To what extent did charter schools help students gain access to devices and the Internet so they could participate in distance learning?

Student Engagement — Focus: How did charter schools keep students engaged and monitor the degree to which students were participating in distance learning?

Social and Emotional Distress — Focus: In what ways did charter schools support students with issues related to mental health, hunger, and social isolation during the pandemic?

For more information or for interview requests, contact CCSA Director of Media Relations and Research at Ana Tintocalis at

CCSA is a nonprofit organization that seeks to meet parent, educator, and community need for great public school options by supporting and advocating for high quality non-profit charter schools and sharing their success throughout California’s public schools.

As part of California’s public school system, charter schools are helping to advance issues of equity, opportunity and access. Charter schools serve all students, all families, and all communities, with particular urgency to provide the state’s most historically underserved and vulnerable students with a high-quality public education. Source: California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)