The Kentucky Tonight was certainly interesting – though in some ways it was like Alice in Wonderland.
If I heard this right, at one point, Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools Sheldon Berman claimed that only two of the 50 charter schools in Massachusetts – where he served before coming to Kentucky – were really performing well.
I’m not sure where he got that statistic, but it would certainly be a surprise to the Massachusetts Department of Education.
A study of charter and regular schools which that department published in August 2006 looked at scores from that state’s very highly regarded MCAS tests for 2001 through 2005.
The study compared Massachusetts’ charter schools to their ‘comparison sending districts’ (CSD).
Two key findings:
• When there is a statistically significant difference in MCAS performance, it is much more likely to favor the charter school than the CSD.
• In both English Language Arts and Mathematics, at least 30 percent of the charter schools performed statistically significantly higher than their CSD in each year with the exception of 2001. In 2001, 19% of the charter schools performed statistically significantly higher than their CSD in English Language Arts and 26% in Mathematics.
In other words, Dr. Berman simply got it wrong. We are not talking about only two of 50 schools doing a better job. We are talking a good number of charters doing better, and getting better at doing better over time, than the regular public schools.
Here are some more findings from this 2006 Massachusetts study:
• The percentage of charter schools performing higher than their CSD each year has remained fairly constant in English Language Arts and Mathematics while the number of charter schools and the number of students tested in charter schools has increased.
In other words, a lot more kids are doing better in the charter schools.
• The percentage of charter schools performing lower than their CSD has declined to approximately 10 percent in Mathematics and dropped below 10 percent in English Language Arts.
Similar patterns existed for all demographic subgroups, with the likelihood of the significant difference favoring the charter school being most prevalent for the African American, Hispanic, and Low Income subgroups.
Because eighteen charter schools were located within the city of Boston, the aggregate performance of those schools was also compared to the Boston Public Schools. In this comparison, the analysis showed that:
• Charter school students in Boston as a combined cohort have performed statistically significantly higher than students enrolled in the Boston Public Schools each year from 2001 to 2005 in both English Language Arts and Mathematics, except there was no statistically significant difference in performance in English Language Arts in 2001.
• Among the African American, Hispanic, Low Income, and Special Education subgroups, charter school performance was statistically significantly higher than the CSD in each year since 2002 in both content areas.
• Charter school students in the White subgroup performed statistically significantly higher than their counterparts in the Boston CSD in 3 of the 5 years in Mathematics and 4 of the 5 years in English Language Arts.
So, pretty much across the board for all racial groups in Boston, and for kids with learning disabilities and from low-income households, charters outperformed.
Those are the facts.
The Massachusetts Department of Education says so.