The first U.S. charter school opened in 1992. Since then the number of charters has grown to more than 4,000 in 40 states, serving 1.2 million students, according to RAND, a nonprofit research organization based in Santa Monica, California.

Students at charter schools graduate and attend college at significantly higher rates than students at traditional public schools, according to a Rand Corp. study led by a Michigan State University scholar.The study, which offers mixed overall results for charter school advocates, comes amid a national debate over President Obama’s endorsement of charter schools, which are experimental public schools that operate independently of the local school board.

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