Late last week, the White House put out a report breaking down the state of the American student achievement gap and the news wasn’t great for Ohio. In reading, we had the nation’s ninth highest gap between our highest and lowest performing schools. In math, we had the nation’s second-highest gap, and in graduation rates we had the nation’s fourth largest gap. And while much of this difference can be explained by the relatively high performance of our highest performing schools, the gap is and should be a serious concern for Ohio’s educators, parents and policy makers.
However, what the data used in the report also show is this: Ohio’s charter schools have made the gap worse, not better, because they make up a disproportionate share of the worst performing schools, as measured by the federal data used in the White House report (see “About the Analysis” below).
- Despite making up 8% of all Ohio school buildings, charters represent 31% of the worst-performing reading buildings, 13% of the worst-performing math buildings, and 78% of the buildings with the worst graduation rates.
- Ohio’s achievement gap is 6% bigger in math, 8% bigger in reading and a whopping 23% bigger in graduation rates than they would be if the analysis only included local public schools.
- And while the state’s achievement gap is still too large, in all three cases, eliminating charters from the calculation drops Ohio’s achievement gap ranking. Math drops from second to fourth greatest. Reading falls from ninth to 11th And the state’s graduation rate gap tumbles from fourth to 14th highest.
- The achievement gap is greater in charter schools for math than it is in the local public schools
- The charter school achievement gap is narrower in reading and graduation rates because charters’ highest performers are so low performing overall compared with local public schools. For example, the average graduation rate for the 19 highest-performing charters – defined as those that have greater than 60% graduation rates (see “About the Analysis” below)– is 65%. Those 19 charters represent 17% of eligible charters. The average rate for the highest performing local schools – 96% of which have graduation rates greater than the 60% threshold – is 91%.