Charter Schools Still Outperformed by Public Schools

The Ohio Department of Education put out their full report card data yesterday, without the bells and whistles, pending an ongoing, and increasingly suspect, investigation of data manipulation being done by the Ohio Auditor.

The information release yesterday reveals that once again, charter schools are outperformed by their public school counterparts. Significantly.

Just a few highlights:

  • On the state’s performance index score, charter schools score an average of 78. That is a lower score than 92% of Ohio’s 3,070 traditional public school buildings that receive a performance index score. So the average charter school would rate in the bottom 8% of traditional school buildings and only 5, not 5%, 5 (or .8%) of school districts.
  • Ohio’s traditional public schools graduate nearly 90% of their students, on average. Charter Schools graduate barely 30% on average.
  • The average proficiency rate in an Ohio school district on the 24 subjects tested is 85% while only in 4 of the 24 subjects does the average School District have a proficiency rate below 80%. Meanwhile, charter schools score above 70% proficient in exactly 2 of the 24 tested subjects (they score exactly 70% on one).The average proficiency rate in a Charter School is about 60%.
  • The average building in the Big 8 Urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) has a higher performance index score than the average charter. Again, proficiencies are linked almost perfectly with poverty, as demonstrated here and here. Yet the Big 8 is able to outperform charters, even though buildings in the Big 8 have significantly higher poverty rates.

A provision in last year’s budget bill said that if you are a district that scored in the bottom 5% of school districts on the Performance Index Score (a calculation dealing with proficiency test results), then charter schools could open in your district.

Looking at the most recent Ohio Report Card data and seeing that only about 1 out of 4 charter schools would rate better than the bottom 5% of school sistricts on the Performance Index, a person might reasonably ask, “Is opening more charter schools in these districts really a solution?”

Especially when these schools, on average, outperform charter schools on 2 out of every 3 proficiency test subjects. Or graduate kids at more than twice the rate of charter schools. Or have higher attendance rates. Or score higher on the Performance Index Score. And they do it with just about the same percentage of kids who are economically disadvantaged (79.1% for Charters, 78.7% for the publics).

Charters did do better on the overall, grade-like rating than they have in the past. Only 40% rated D or F on the report card, compared with nearly 50% a few years ago, thanks in no small measure to tighter closure standards instituted in House Bill 1. In addition, 10% of charters rated A or A+, which is much higher than previous years, but again is incredibly low. The largest report card rating (or mode) for charters was not an F or D; it was a C. Still not great, but better.

However, only 8.4% of traditional school buildings rate D or F on the report card, while 58% rate A or A+. Nearly 44% of traditional schools rate an A — the largest category (or mode) for traditional schools.

The bottom line is this: after 15 years and nearly $6 billion spent on charter schools, is this really the best we can do? Doing utterly worse than the average pubic school while failing to outperform urban districts despite the urban districts having more economically disadvantaged kids?

Would that $6 billion have been better spent reducing the need for property taxes? Smaller classes? Tutors? Health care for kids? Richer curriculum?