By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools and The Florida Department of Education (2013) have reported that charter school outperformed traditional public schools across a variety of subjects and grade levels. There are currently 7000 charter schools operating in the United States educating about 2.5 Million students in K-12. Charter growth since it beginnings in the 1990’s has been rapid due to the dissatisfaction many parents have with public schools and the decline of the United States in math, reading and science relative to other developed countries. Charter enrollment represents about 5% of total school enrollment. Since charters which are free public schools operating independently of the school districts, it is important to measure their performance. Since public school spending is risen dramatically, it is useful to point our that charter schools educate students for about 25% less than public schools, and they need to provide their own building and property. The Florida and Chicago reports provide good news for those who believe in the future of choice and charter schools and the opportunities they provide for improving education in America, and saving public money at the same time.
The Florida report states:
“The data contained in this report, based on over 3.2 million test scores, is derived from student performance on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test
(FCAT 2.0) and Algebra end-of-course exams. This report is designed to allow a comparative analysis of the academic achievement of students attending charter schools versus students attending traditional public schools. Using data from the 2012-13 school year, the report makes 177 comparisons in three areas: proficiency, achievement gaps and learning gains. Each of these areas includes overall as well as sub-group comparisons across subject areas and grade levels.
The FCAT 2.0 and Algebra end-of-course exam proficiency percentages are used to measure both overall rates of proficiency by grade groupings and comparisons of subgroup performance. This section of the report contains 63 separate comparisons of student achievement. In 58 of the 63 comparisons students enrolled in charter schools demonstrated higher proficiency rates.”
For example, in high school reading scores for black students 45% of charter students performed above level 3 proficiency while only 33% of traditional high school students performed above level 3. In middle school math score back students at charters similarly outperformed traditional public school students 45% to 33%.
When total population is measured, charters outperform traditional public school in year-end algebra exams. 59% of high school charter students scored at level 3 or above while only 44% of traditional high school students scored at level 3 or above.
The achievement gap between whites, black and Hispanics is significantly reduced in charter schools vs. traditional public schools.
Chicago Charter Schools
The Illinois Association of Charter Schools reported on Chicago schools because that is where the bulk of charters are in Illinois. Charters in Chicago primarily service the black and Hispanic community. In 1987, the Secretary of Education William Bennett called Chicago public schools the worst in the nation, and that was the headline in the New York Times. Half of the schools in Chicago that took the ACT ranked in the bottom 1% of schools in America.
It was time for a change and now 16% of Chicago public school students attend charters. Now 12 of Chicago’s top public schools are charter schools. Charter graduation rates are 76% while traditional school graduation rates are 68%. Fully 70% of Chicago Charter graduates go to college while 50% of public school graduates go on to college. Although the teachers union and the educational establishment continue to fight charter school politically, Florida and Illinois have demonstrated the value of charters in America’s effort to improve the education of all students.