As we move into the new legislative session, with a bill on charter schools already being prepared, it is interesting to note findings from a fairly recent report about charter school performance in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
It is important to note that the NAEP is not really an ideal tool to look at charter schools. Because of small sample sizes for charter school students in the NAEP, it takes a really big score difference before charter schools can be shown to outperform traditional public schools.
Also, it is hard to use NAEP to develop “apples to apples” comparisons of students from traditional and charter schools. In most cases, the NAEP comparisons that have been presented in the past have compared traditional school samples with lots of well to do whites against charter school students who tend to come from very disadvantaged minority populations.
However, things look different when the NAEP analysis focuses on schools located in big cities where all student samples from both traditional and charter schools tend to be more homogeneous.
So, here are some interesting comments from that report, titled “Who Attends Charter Schools and How Are Those Students Doing?” I guarantee you won’t be hearing any of this from the enemies of school choice in Kentucky.
• The findings tend to favor charter schools when one focuses on black, Hispanic, and low-income students within the large cities. In many subject/grade combinations students in these subgroups in charter schools performed significantly better in 2011 than those in regular public schools. By contrast, in 2003/2005 these subgroups performed similarly in charter and regular schools, and in one case (low-income students in grade 4 math), the regular schools were ahead.
• The performance of black low-income students attending charter schools in large cities is particularly striking. This group has shown a large increase in scores. In 2011 their achievement was significantly higher than that of similar students in regular large-city schools in grade 8 reading and grades 4 and 8 math.
• In the large cities, the only significant subgroup findings in favor of regular schools in 2011 were for Asians (in grade 4 math) and whites (in grade 4 reading).
• When we look more closely at a few large urban districts, the 2011 results clearly favor charter schools. In the four cities where NAEP data permitted comparisons (DC, Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee), students in charter schools significantly outperformed their peers in regular public schools in many of the subjects/grades analyzed. In those four districts, there are no subjects/grades where regular schools significantly outperformed charter schools. Chicago and Milwaukee), students in charter schools significantly outperformed their peers in regular public schools in many of the subjects/grades analyzed. In those four districts, there are no subjects/grades where regular schools significantly outperformed charter schools.
So, the NAEP adds to growing evidence that charter schools are starting to really outperform for some of the highest needs students. This is why Kentucky is one of only eight states left in the United States that does not allow them. The other 42 states have figured this out, already. Isn’t it time for Kentucky to join the 21st Century, as well?