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Stephen Dyer · August 26, 2013

New state report cards show charter schools underperform

Last week, a new Ohio Report Card was unveiled with a new approach to evaluating schools, and upon first glance, it appears that Ohio charter schools may be doing better than they did under the older, supposedly “easier” system. The new Report Card grades schools and districts based on nine criteria, for which they receive an A-F letter grade. Charter schools received the same average letter grade as traditional school districts in just two categories: value-added scores for gifted education and for students in the bottom 20%. However, only 2 charters received gifted scores, rendering that measure statistically meaningless. Value added scores measure actual test score growth versus what expected growth would be. Yet charters overall still woefully underperform districts overall. And it is pretty dramatic. More than 41% of charter school grades were F. More than 60% of Charter School grades were D or F. Only 20% of their grades were A or B. District grades were much better. Only 11% were F and 20% were D or F. Meanwhile, 53% of districts’ grades were A or B — about evenly split between both grades.
Percent of Letter Grades Charter v Public
Charters got mostly Ds and Fs while public districts got mostly As and Bs.
Districts outperform charters in every category but the two mentioned earlier (and again, only 2 charters received a grade in the Gifted category). The difference is most stark when comparing graduation rates — the average charter gets an F in four-year graduation rates and a D in five-year rates. Traditional public districts average Bs in both. What’s even more amazing is this: these charter data do not include 85 Dropout Recovery schools (about 25% of the 347 Charters in operation last year), which have been separated out in the new Report Card. These schools, historically among the poorest performing in the state, do not receive letter grades on the new Report Card. They are exempt. We will look at how dropout recovery schools were exempted and how they perform (spoiler alert: it’s not good) in a future post.  But in the meantime, the take-away on charters is that even by excluding 85 of the poorest-performing charters by exempting dropout recovery schools from letter grades on the Report Cards, Ohio’s charter schools still underperform traditional public schools on nearly every measure. And yet they are set to receive up to $124 million more state funding this year thanks to continued expansion and policies that shift more pubic dollars away from traditional districts. And they do this all while spending nearly twice as much as districts on non-instructional costs, effectively removing 6.5% of every non-Charter School student’s state money, providing fewer opportunities for the nearly 90% of children who attend Ohio’s traditional public schools.

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Tagged in these Policy Areas: K-12 Education