Let’s finally put to rest the tiresome arguments over whether charter schools have been beneficial to children and families. Time and again, independent analysts have found that, on the whole, charters have performed exceptionally well in many states.

The latest evidence arrived Tuesday in the form of a Stanford University study that found that students in charter schools are significantly more likely to make faster academic progress, especially in reading, than their peers in traditional public schools.

In fact, according to the Stanford researchers, charters in Indiana rank fifth best for gains on test scores out of those studied in 23 other states and cities. The Stanford research team found similar results in a separate analysis of Indiana’s charters last year.

But what of the often-heard complaint that charters cherry-pick the most promising students at the expense of underachievers, a charge that, if true, might explain the improved test scores? The research doesn’t support that contention.

A 2009 study by the Indiana University Center for Evaluation & Education Policy determined that on average charters in the state served a similar or higher percentage of low-income students than the feeder school districts from which they pulled students. Charter schools, according to the study, also were more likely to attract ethnic and racial minorities. This week’s Stanford study found similar results.

The IU researchers also reported that once students attend a charter, they are just as likely to stay in the school as students enrolled in traditional schools. Which means an accusation often lodged by critics — that charters are more likely to force out low achievers and troublemakers than other schools — isn’t supported by hard evidence.

Focusing on the research is important because opponents of charter schools are still adamant about trying to stop their expansion. Thankfully, a strong majority of people can see through the rhetoric.

Charter schools are by no means a panacea, and not every charter is successful (and those that aren’t should be reformed or shut down). But they have helped thousands of families — and in doing so helped this city and state — find success in the classroom at levels that might not otherwise have been achieved. That fact is worth celebrating, and duplicating.

-Creators Syndicate