Students in charters actually outperform district peers, according to this weighted analysis

For the last two weeks the Fordham Ohio team has been highlighting achievement trends in the Buckeye State's ?Big 8? districts (eight largest) and charter schools. At the same time, Ohio newspapers also have been making charter/district comparisons in their news stories (e.g., "Charters Suffer By Comparison, Slowly Catching up with School Districts" by Hannah News Service).

But in most instances, these charter/district comparisons aren't very useful (or accurate) as charter schools ? located primarily in Ohio's urban centers or other challenged districts  serve a student population that is far more disadvantaged than the statewide average. In other words, how useful is it to know that only 21 percent of charters  achieved a ranking of Effective, Excellent or Excellent with Distinction compared to 93 percent of district schools, when wealthier schools comprise the vast majority of those in the latter category? Not very.

For this reason, in our yearly achievement analysis we look at charter schools and compare them to the Big 8 districts (not the state average). With the help of our friends at Public Impact, who did this year's analysis, we also weighted the analysis such that if in 2010-11, 30 percent of charter students were in third grade, then third graders in district schools would be counted as 30 percent of the district average. Similarly, if 30 percent of charter students were in Akron, then Akron city district students would be counted as 30 percent of the district average as well.

When done this way, students in charter schools actually outperform their district peers in both reading and math, by a slim margin. Even more impressive is the upward trajectory in both subjects over time.

 

CHART 1: URBAN CHARTER SCHOOL VS. OHIO 8 DISTRICT SCHOOL PERFORMANCE OVER TIME IN READING

 

Source: Ohio's interactive local report card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHART 2: URBAN CHARTER SCHOOL VS. OHIO 8 DISTRICT SCHOOL PERFORMANCE OVER TIME IN MATH

 

 

Source: Ohio's interactive local report card

When student achievement data were first made available by the Ohio Department of Education in 2001-02, urban charter school performance lagged significantly behind that of surrounding district schools. Between 2001-02 and 2005-06, charter school performance in both reading and math rose to the point where it was similar to that of the urban systems where the charter schools reside.

Although performance is still similar, student performance in charter schools has slightly edged out student performance in surrounding district schools in the Ohio 8 over the last two years. On average, 65 percent of students attending a charter school were proficient in reading in 2011, compared to 62 percent in traditional district schools. Math results were similar; 55 percent of charter students were proficient in 2011 compared to 53 percent of students in traditional district schools.

There is still much room to improve (the statewide proficiency goal is 75 percent). But the good news is that students in the Ohio 8, regardless of whether they attend charter schools or district schools, have attained proficiency at increasing levels. Charter schools especially have made tremendous gains.

Analyses performed by Dan Brinson, Daniela Doyle, and Tom Koester

-Jamie Davies O'Leary

More By Author

Related Articles