The annual comparisons of charter vs. public school achievement are out. Can you believe what you see? Hundreds of reports show that high school students enrolled in public schools tend to out perform students in charters while in charter middle schools the reverse is true. Smaller differences in elementary schools favor charters. This is no surprise. The students enrolled in charters are different! The percentage differences in student demographics account for the achievement differences. Here are the data:
Hispanics: charters 42.3% vs. public 32.5%
FRPL: charters 54.9% vs. public 65.0%
SWD: charters 9.6% vs. public 14.6%
Black: charters 20.o% vs public 22.0%
If these numbers do not convince you that the Department of Education (DOE) report is suspect, consider the implications of the difference in school grades. Forty-seven percent of charters earn an ‘A’ grade compared to 28% of public schools. School grades and family income levels are highly correlated.
Charters tend to increase segregation by race and income. Many people do not realize that the majority of charters are located in the Miami area and overwhelmingly serve Hispanic students. Are these students from the same backgrounds as Hispanics located in other areas? The DOE does not provide this information. Another question one might ask is whether students eligible for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program are similar. Do charters serve the same percentage of students who qualify for free lunch as public schools?
Finally, what are the differences in disabilities for students in charters and public schools. Unless you have a child who needs help due to a learning disability, you may not know that disabilities are categorized by level of impairment.
The bottom line as always is to beware of smoke and mirrors. The differences in achievement between charters and public schools are due to student selection. In comparison studies where students are matched by background and prior achievement, the achievement differences disappear.
Need more evidence? Check out previous studies: