Don’t be fooled by the DOE: Charters bomb in Florida cities

Every year the Florida DOE compares charter vs. traditional public school performance.  The report shows percentages of proficient students in each sector.  Charters win, hands down in this report but not on reports from national research studies.  Why is that?

  • Charters enroll a lower percentage of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, disabilities and English Language Learners.   Thus, given the correlation between income and achievement, charters should look better.  In general they represent higher income families.  See the Florida DOE chart below.


The achievement for Florida charters is dismal when compared to similar traditional public school (TPS) students.  The DOE comparisons do not match students based on their test scores.  The CREDO  urban area study did.    Look at the evidence for achievement gains, in 42 cities, between charters and traditional public school students when matched on their initial achievement levels and the amount gained three years later.

CREDO STUDY RESULTS:  The picture for urban charters in Florida is not pretty.  Based on results from Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tampa and West Palm Beach:

  • Charters in five of seven cities did worse than the TPS in reading. Miami and Tampa had small charter gains.
  • Charters in three of seven cities did worse in math.  One showed no difference; three (Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa) did slightly better than the TPS students.

Only in Jacksonville and Miami are student demographics similar between charters and TPS.  In other cities, Florida charters generally enroll a lower percentage of students in poverty and with learning disabilities.    It should be noted that in Miami, while there are similar numbers of students in poverty, the charter sector is largely Hispanic.   This is generally not the case in most of the urban areas studied.  No matter how you look at the comparisons, something is lacking in Florida’s charter sector.

Some U.S. city charters do remarkably better than the TPS e.g. Bay Area, Boston, Memphis, Newark, New Orleans, and New York City.  Most cities do not.  These gains are largest for low-income black students and Hispanic English language learners.

While the data from these cities are disputed by reliable sources, it is important to look at the charter sectors in these areas to see if and how they differ from those in other cities.  For example, Boston has a limited and tightly controlled charter group.  New York City charters are known to have high dismissal rates.  What is happening in these charter successful cities?  Who do they really serve?

Is the formula for successful charters to weed out students whom they cannot help?  Should traditional public schools do the same?  Where does this road lead?  Want to find out?  Read the blog tomorrow.





Posted in Achievement, Charter Schools, Civil Rights, Department of Education, Disability, Florida, Public Education, Reform, Resegregation, Uncategorized.


  1. I wish a national teacher union would investigate the Miami Teachers Union (UTD) — it is not a typical Teacher Union … It has Sold out MIAMI TEACHERS FOR YEARSSSS!!!!! UNion contracts pass because non-teachers are part of the union and have a vote on teacher contracts. PLEASE READ —- PLEASE pass on to someone who may be able to help.

  2. “New York City charters are known to have high dismissal rates. ”
    What do you consider the best data demonstrating the relative attrition rates of NYC charter schools and NYC TPS or that otherwise forms the basis for that statement? Thanks.

    • WNYC did an independent analysis showing charter elementary schools had less attrition than public schools and middle school charters had more. What is interesting is that the charters had a very wide range of attrition rates. KIPP had the lowest, but their suspension rate is high. Gary Rubinstein’s report on KIPP gaming the system was also instructive. Beware of data—so I applaud your question.

      SUCCESS charters had the highest attrition rates. If you read Gary Miron’s latest study as reported in Ed Week, KIPP has high attrition especially for black males.

      • Ah, okay, thanks. I’m supposing that’s the WNYC study reported with this headline: “NYC Charters Retain Students Better Than Traditional Schools – WNYC”
        “New York City charter schools retain more of their students, on average, than traditional public schools, according to Department of Education data obtained and analyzed by WNYC.”

        “Citywide, across all grades, 10.6 percent of charter school students transferred out in 2013-14, compared to 13 percent of traditional public school students. But there is wide variety among these schools and among the different networks. ”
        “We found most of Success’s 18 schools in the 2013-14 school year had attrition rates that were lower than those of their local districts. The two schools that were slightly higher are in Bedford Stuyvesant and Cobble Hill…”

        “Gary Rubinstein’s report on KIPP gaming the system was also instructive. Beware of data—so I applaud your question.”

        I didn’t find entirely convincing Rubinstein’s speculation that the strange results he found were due to “Kipp gaming the system”. Seems also plausible that the NYC ed department had erroneously gathered and/or presented KIPP data in misleading fashion. A shame Gary didn’t dig a little deeper before disseminating his findings.

        “SUCCESS charters had the highest attrition rates”
        The chart in the WNYC study seems to show them having 57.4% of the amount of attrition as their local district schools, while Democracy Prep had 84.3% as much as their local district schools.

        ” If you read Gary Miron’s latest study as reported in Ed Week, KIPP has high attrition especially for black males.”

        If I read that Ed Week article, what jumps out as most impressive is Miron’s acknowledgement that his attrition calculations were deficient. “Mr. Miron said that the Mathematica approach to determining student attrition is ‘superior’ to his.”

        That’s a rare, and praiseworthy, acknowledgment.

        • And, the title of Miron’s article is “Study Stings KIPP on Attrition Rates”. Miron, as I noted, questions the impact of not replacing students who leave. This is not a trivial issue. Another non trivial issue is the way student attrition works in low income areas. We have four schools where students rotate as parents switch apartments. The point in all of this is to understand the reality behind the numbers. I am at least pleased that attrition has made it into the conversation.

    • WNYC reports wide variation in dismissals: In their data, KIPP has low dismissals. Yet, they have high suspension rates. Success Academy and Democracy Prep had high dismissal rates. There is some question about the KIPP data that was reported after the U.S. News and World Report rankings were published. There were students reported to be in four high schools but were actually in middle schools who were all in the same high school. Thus, the rankings of the high school were based on only fifty some students. Strange.

      Gary Miron’s study just published reported very high comparative attrition rates for charters and questioned KIPP’s practice of not replacing students who leave. The real issue that I ponder is the impact of ‘creaming’ on local schools. This occurs in public schools that rely on magnet programs. These programs take the better learners out of a school. The remaining students are ‘left out’. This whole system of choice creates its own set of problems that should be explored.

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