CREDO’s 2015 report on charter achievement in urban areas gives a different twist on the data. You can find results by urban areas in each state.
I looked at Florida. Our charters do not do as well as in other states. The data is broken down by demographics, grade span, across years and annual results from 2007-2011. Comparisons are made for achievement gains for students in charters and a matched set of students in traditional public schools (TPS) in the areas that charters serve. And the winners by Florida school district are?
Well, it depends. RedefinEd summarized the data for math and reading gains by which type of school did better, the same or worse. Tampa charters had 50% of its charters doing better in math and only 13% worse than their TPS counterparts. In reading, the TPS had the advantage in all but one urban area. Only in Miami did a higher percentage of charters outperform their comparison groups in reading across the years studied. You can see all of the results here.
When you look at the results, you will see bar charts that display the average gain for all traditional public schools as a zero point on the chart. The charter and their traditional matched public school achievement gains are either below or above this average.
Results for charters in Florida show improvement between 2007-11. How to account for the improvement is not clear. Charters were serving fewer blacks and more Hispanics as the years went by. Is the variation in results due to shifts in the students served or to other factors not readily apparent in the data?
If you look at the Jacksonville data, charters do well overall compared to their TPS twins. If however, you look at the achievement of black students there as well as students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, they do less well than the TPS twin. Do certain non black, middle income students do better in charters than they would in their zoned traditional schools? In Jacksonville, they must be pulling up the overall gain scores for charter schools. Higher charter school gain scores show up for Asian students, for example.
The Shanker Institute analysis of the CREDO Urban Charter School Study is informative. Nationwide, charters slightly outperform their traditional public school counterparts, but not in Florida. The magnitude of the differences are small nationwide in reading and somewhat larger in math. The breakdowns for subgroups show no effect for blacks and modest effects for students on free and reduced lunch. Yet, the variability in success is very large. Some charters do well and some do not.
The article calls for a careful study of the context in which charters perform. For example, Tampa, Florida charter schools do seem to have slightly higher gain scores for low income and minority students than do students in their matched traditional schools. This is not true in Jacksonville. Is there any explanation? Local leagues may want to look at the data in their area and see if they have any insights into the results.