About that charter schools report

Yesterday, as I was writing my column for Thursday’s AJC print edition, the state Department of Education released its annual report about charter schools. The headline resulting from that report — that charter schools are performing worse than other public schools based on the federal measure of Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP — is misleading.

For starters, here is the five-year trend line for scores, as illustrated in the report:

Charter school scores

Source: Georgia Department of Education

If you see any meaningful separation between “all” charter schools and “all” traditional public schools, you’re probably in the minority. What I see are two lines following much the same trend, taking turns being insignificantly ahead of the other. The five-year average for charter schools is 79.4 percent; for traditional public schools, it’s 79.6 percent. Pretty much a dead heat.

Ah, but aren’t charter schools supposed to produce better outcomes? If not, why bother with them?

Well, the majority of charter schools are located in metro Atlanta, as this map from the report illustrates:

Source: Georgia Department of Education

Source: Georgia Department of Education

Not counting charter school systems, such as Marietta’s or Decatur’s, 55 of the state’s 101 charter schools are in either Fulton (14), Cobb (6), DeKalb (11), Hall (7), Atlanta (13) or Gwinnett (4).

The most appropriate measurement of charter schools’ performance is how they are doing relative to the other schools in their own districts. Here’s the breakdown (Note: There are a few small discrepancies between these numbers and the ones I reported earlier today in a comment on another post; a 342-page report is not the easiest thing to read on an iPad, which is what I was using this morning):

* Fulton: 79 percent of charter schools made AYP; 73 percent of non-charter schools did;

* Cobb: 83 percent vs. 81 percent;

* DeKalb: 45 percent vs. 47 percent;

* Hall: 71 percent vs. 92 percent;

*Atlanta: 62 percent vs. 54 percent;

*Gwinnett: 100 percent vs. 82 percent.

So, charters clearly underperformed in Hall County and slightly underperformed in DeKalb — but take away a DeKalb charter that closed after last year (one of the beauties of charter schools is that they’re easier to close if they don’t work out) and the charters still in operation did slightly better than the non-charters there. Elsewhere, the news was better for charters: The other non-system charters in the state made AYP at a 74 percent clip, just above the state-wide average. System charters (where the entire school system consists of charter schools) also passed at a 74 percent rate.

In fact, take away the DeKalb charter schools, and charter schools state-wide barely beat out traditional public schools.

The data aren’t available (to me, anyway) to make a thorough examination of charters vs. traditional public schools in terms of racial minorities and students from low-income families. I would only note that charters are somewhat more likely than traditional public schools to serve minority students (62 percent non-white students vs. 56 percent state-wide) and slightly less likely to serve students receiving free or reduced-price lunches (50 percent vs. 57 percent).

Whether charter schools ought to be performing even better, and whether there’s enough being done to reform or close down underperforming ones, are subject to debate. But it’s superficial at best, and misleading at worst, to say charters are lagging behind other public schools.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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77 comments Add your comment

Do what??????

February 16th, 2012
4:01 pm

When all is said and done, it still comes down to the parent and kid. No matter what new system, if any, is introduced you will always have stupid kids/parents. It all comes down to the individual.

carlosgvv

February 16th, 2012
4:08 pm

How does Georgia compare with the rest of the nation when it comes to charter schools? Do we have more or less? If more or less, how many?

ByteMe

February 16th, 2012
4:13 pm

Soooo who wrote the headline? And why are you making the headline the strawman in your argument instead of why charter schools don’t perform appreciably better considering the amount of angst being exhibited by Republicans over why the state is banned from creating them?

Kyle Wingfield

February 16th, 2012
4:20 pm

ByteMe: Headline/takeaway/conclusion. I didn’t mean the literal words used above a particular story.

And my whole point was that it’s more complicated than that, and even my initial scratching below the surface tells a different story. The best comparison would be a longitudinal study of how specific kids (w/o names or other ID, of course) fared once they moved into a charter school.

Kyle Wingfield

February 16th, 2012
4:26 pm

carlosgvv: From the DOE’s report:

“Nationally, charter school students represent 3.7% of all public school students in the 2010-11 school year. Georgia charter school students represent 5.9% of the public school population in Georgia. Since 2009-2010, Georgia increased the number of charter school students by .2% each year when charter system students are included. Conversion and start-up charter schools represent over half of the total charter school enrolment with 3.5% of all public school students in Georgia.”

Fwiw, the 2.4% not represented by “conversion and start-up charter schools” relate to charter systems like Marietta’s and Decatur’s. Which may or may not be an appropriate comparison to other states; I don’t know other states’ policies well enough to know if they have charter systems.

ByteMe

February 16th, 2012
4:54 pm

Kyle, thank you for clarifying that your strawman was the argument that charter schools did worse.

That’s not my argument though. My argument is that it doesn’t necessarily perform better, so why are you so gung-ho to have the state take a role in creating them without local school board input? You’re pushing for a solution that doesn’t solve a problem and the legislature wants to do it in a way that over-rules local school control, which is something we know you don’t like. So what gives?

Dusty

February 16th, 2012
5:06 pm

ByteMe,

Does it ever occur to you that Kyle may be searching for what he believes is best for the children of this generation and others to come? He has been listening and investigating with the people trying to make these decisions for the state.

Keep asking questions but do listen to the answers.

GodHatesTrash, Superstar

February 16th, 2012
5:14 pm

The ‘privatization’ of ‘public’ schools fits conservative idiotology. The taxpayers will pass their taxes practically directly to privately held companies who are motivated to deliver just enough to get by at the lowest price possible, so that they can pocket the difference. What a gold mine!

ByteMe

February 16th, 2012
5:15 pm

Does it ever occur to you that Kyle may be searching for what he believes is best for the children of this generation and others to come?

I truly believe — since he is also a Dad of young kids like I have — that he wants what’s best for our children’s future. However, I also believe that if you write that the legislature should be given carte blanche to over-ride local school board decisions on charter schools that he should justify why in light of charter schools not having a strong case for performing better than “regular” schools. And I’m eagerly await that explanation.

Kyle Wingfield

February 16th, 2012
5:16 pm

ByteMe: Better than what? That’s the argument here. Better than the state average in a one-year snapshot? Is that the right comparison, when charters are just one measure of choice for parents whose kids are stuck in bad schools?

Is it better to be in, for example, Drew Charter School rather than East Lake Elementary? The test scores would indicate so. That’s the case for every school-to-school comparison I know or have heard about — but I haven’t gone through systematically and verified it in every case. Further complicating the picture is that there are differences between a) start-up charter schools, b) traditional public schools that are converted to charter schools, and c) traditional public school systems that convert into charter systems. The “headline” numbers in the DOE report don’t allow for that kind of nuance. It takes a deeper dive, and I tried to begin doing that in this post.

For now, I’m comforted by the fact that the charter school average is virtually the same as the state-wide average, somewhat better in most cases compared to their local school systems (all of which have very good schools and very bad schools), and significantly better in every case with which I’m familiar on a school-to-school basis.

This is not necessarily about creating the very best schools in the state, or even in a particular school district. It’s about providing another public school choice for kids who will be doomed to a lifetime of underachievement if they have to wait while the adults argue and play politics about how to fix the broken schools they’re forced into today. That’s why I’m so gung-ho about it.

Hillbilly D

February 16th, 2012
5:24 pm

It’s about providing another public school choice for kids who will be doomed to a lifetime of underachievement if they have to wait while the adults argue and play politics about how to fix the broken schools they’re forced into today.

That’s a noble sentiment and a worthy goal but my guess is, no matter what kind of system you have, the adults are going to argue and play politics with it. That’s what “adults” do, or at least that’s been the case in my life span (so far, I ain’t done yet).

My own opinion is that the jury is still out on how effective charters are. I still say it’s an urban/suburban mindset and it’s putting round pegs in square holes in the rural world, which is where some us live. I reckon it’s just human nature for everybody to think that what works for them, will work for everybody.

ByteMe

February 16th, 2012
5:25 pm

It’s about providing another public school choice for kids who will be doomed to a lifetime of underachievement if they have to wait while the adults argue and play politics about how to fix the broken schools they’re forced into today.

False choice presented: Either public schools or state-created charter schools. Maybe instead of embracing the latest fad, we work harder to figure out what works for all instead of on a case-by-case basis. If the average over several years doesn’t show a statistical difference, then it’s not the “charter vs. public” that should be the focus of our efforts.

ByteMe

February 16th, 2012
5:27 pm

And, by the way, if a local district isn’t doing its job, then maybe what happened in Clayton County points the way out of the mess.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

February 16th, 2012
5:49 pm

As you can see, trashman went to a public school.

Dusty

February 16th, 2012
5:49 pm

Hillbilly D. 5:24

I’m glad you aint done yet. Me neither!

If this crazy weather keeps on, I may be done in. Freezing one day. Warm the next. I’ve seen trees blooming while the weatherman is predicting snow. Then it rains.

It’s almost enough to make me believe those crazy environmental people. But not quite.

Do what??????

February 16th, 2012
5:49 pm

“As you can see, trashman went to a public school.”

I don’t think trash finished middle school.

ragnar danneskjold

February 16th, 2012
5:50 pm

Thanks for the analysis. The headline – which was all I heard – was counter-intuitive, and now we know why.

@@

February 16th, 2012
5:59 pm

Have I been banned? My posts keep misappearing.

@@

February 16th, 2012
6:01 pm

Obviously not. They aren’t being held for moderation…they just vanish altogether.

@@

February 16th, 2012
6:02 pm

Snatched, they are.

GodHatesTrash, Superstar

February 16th, 2012
6:05 pm

Curly, the Ivies aren’t public…

Doo – you had the first part of your sentence right – you don’t think. You can’t.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

February 16th, 2012
6:11 pm

As you can see, the standards at the Ivies have fallen off considerably.

Save your money and your child’s brain.

RaceToTheBottom

February 16th, 2012
6:12 pm

About Kyle’s column yesterday, Kyle said “But the power at the heart of this matter is not the power to approve a charter school, but the power to run that school. This amendment would let the state grant that more important power to the parents who would send their children to a proposed charter. ”

Let’s see. Imagine a charter school with 500 students. Say 200 or so parents desire or demand the “power to run that school” (quoting Kyle) since they have been given the right to do so. Ever hear of helicopter parents (aka hovering parents)? Imagine the carnage when all helicopters are hovering at once and continually. Not a great idea Kyle.

MAY

February 16th, 2012
6:32 pm

Another thing to note is even though Hall Co is not a charter system, all the schools pointed out are conversion charters or district started charters not start ups like Drew Academy mentioned earlier. Conversions are still so dependent on the district they really shouldn’t be included. I would bet if the founders of Drew, Dekalb Academy of Tech and Env, Pataula Academy, or Amana opened a school in Hall Co, their approach (all a little different) would result in greater success. And even in a great school system, the charter school sometimes offers the family a better fit for learning – so if that charter school and the traditional public school are both doing great, isn’t that a win-win? Nah. Couldn’t be.

Atlanta Mom

February 16th, 2012
6:37 pm

I can’t believe it!!!! You mean there wasn’t a 100% AYP pass rate for charter schools? As they are suppose to be the “be all, end all” how can this be?

The real question is: why are their results only minimally better? Charter schools, by merely requiring an application, gets better parents. Therefore, their results should be much better than just a little bit better.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

February 16th, 2012
6:40 pm

Do not question the liberals. Shut your damn mouth and send your kids to the school you’re told.

Do not question Dear Leader. Shut your damn mouth and buy your government-approved health insurance plan. Obozo doesn’t care if you like your plan–what matters is that he likes it.

Do not question the food police. If the lunch you sent with your kid is deemed unacceptable, it will be confiscated and a government lunch will be substituted. Shut your damn mouth and send in your payment.

Thanks for the freedom and choice, Democrats.

Obozo: Fascist.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

February 16th, 2012
6:42 pm

Atlanta Mom: how can this be?
——————-

If you don’t like it, choose another school.

Why is it that libtards want only one “choice”? Idiots.

MAY

February 16th, 2012
6:45 pm

So a traditional public school doesn’t require paperwork to attend? Wow. All my Fulton schools have required a great deal of information from me in the past. A charter school needs a name, address, and phone number too. Especially if they hold a lottery so they can communicate with the family.

You’re no longer misinformed Atlanta Mom, you have chosen to continue to spread falsehoods. You know the schools serve special needs, ESOL, behavior issues, and free/reduced students yet you continue to incite with your blog comments.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

February 16th, 2012
6:46 pm

Private-school students outperform public-school students on the SAT.

Isn’t that just because richer private-school kids can afford to be coached more before the SAT? No — remember that this study carefully controlled for socioeconomic status. Rather, it appears private schools do more to develop students’ critical-thinking abilities — not just the rote memorization required to do well on achievement tests.

In short, today’s study shows that sending your kid to private school — particularly one run by a holy order like the Jesuits — is still a better way to ensure that he or she will get into college.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1670063,00.html#ixzz1makHja5f
————————

Bottom line: Government schools are inferior to private schools.

GodHatesTrash, Superstar

February 16th, 2012
6:49 pm

More frothy squeezins from the little minds of Curly and Little Barry. Dumb as Doo.

Atlanta Mom

February 16th, 2012
6:50 pm

So, how many homeless people do you think apply to attend a charter school? How many parents who don’t give a hoot about education do you think fill out an application for their child to attend a charter school? All those children are left in zone schools.
And I really am surprised that the charter schools didn’t do better in this comparsion.

Atlanta Mom

February 16th, 2012
6:54 pm

This is a real question. Charter schools hold lotteries. So are they not subject to overcrowding? I know Chamblee HS is a charter school and very overcrowded. But, in general, how does that work?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

February 16th, 2012
7:02 pm

I wonder why charter schools need lotteries?

Hmm.

Cactus

February 16th, 2012
7:33 pm

Stanford University says one-third of America’s charter schools perform better than traditional public schools; one-third perform worse than traditional public schools and one-third perform at the same level as traditional public schools. In other words, two-thirds of all charter schools perform at or below what is true for traditional public schools. Or….if you are a glass half full type, one-third of charter schools outperform public schools. Charter schools are a necessary part of our education system, but no one on either side of the HR 1162 issue needs to exaggerate their benefits or their shortcomings; the reason the graph shows little difference between the two is a reflection of reality, something idealogues would do well to stay in touch with.

MAY

February 16th, 2012
7:41 pm

Chamblee Charter School is a conversion charter school, so it’s a traditional public school that may or may not have any waivers. A start up charter must ‘prove’ through the application process how many students they can serve. If the demand is too great for the school, they hold a lottery. They operate on so much less funding that it’s not always as easy as installing a few trailers.

Old Fogie

February 16th, 2012
7:56 pm

Any of you guys, Kyle included, ever hear of “confidence bars” on graphs? If not, quit putting them out as evidence of you bias! You don’t know what you’re talking about. Spin it any way you want. The reality is, over time and over all, there is no difference between charters and regular public schools performance. Once you select out the “best and brightest” and handle them differently, the rest is still the rest. The normal distribution curve is called that because in large groups, selected at random, the distribution of all measurements are symmetrical around the mean. The more charters you create, the more they look just like the public schools you left. It ain’t about the teachers; it’s about you! You Atlanta guys stop shooting at us out in the country and calling us collateral damage. Go to your school boards and vote the idiots off and leave us out in the hinterlands alone!

Will

February 16th, 2012
8:04 pm

so….don’t confuse me with the facts….is that the point?

One clear and defined result of Charter Schools cannot be debated……Charter Schools can be an effective tool in legally re-segregating public schools.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

February 16th, 2012
8:39 pm

The Fragility of Public Health. Young and healthy Occupy Americans, when huddled into encampments without modern sanitary facilities, developed a number of diseases, ranging from scabies to lice to tuberculosis, with surprising rapidity. In addition, populations of rats and other vermin exploded. What lessons can be learned about the fragility of public health, and the complacency bred by modern sanitation? Are we similarly complacent in other areas?

Maybe dummycrats like to be filthy.

Bart Abel

February 16th, 2012
8:42 pm

“In this analysis, we examine the effect charter schools are having on student achievement generally, and on different demographic groups, in two major urban districts in California. Student achievement results suggest that charter schools are having mixed overall effects and generally not promoting student achievement for minorities.”

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094119006000234

Bart Abel

February 16th, 2012
8:43 pm

“After adjusting for student characteristics, charter school mean scores in reading and mathematics were lower, on average, than those for public noncharter schools.”

http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2006460.pdf

Bart Abel

February 16th, 2012
8:43 pm

“On average, charter schools are not performing as well as their traditional public-school peers, according to a new study that is being called the first national assessment of these school-choice options. The study, conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, compared the reading and math state achievement test scores of students in charter schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia—amounting to 70 percent of U.S. charter school students—to those of their virtual “twins” in regular schools who shared with them certain characteristics.”

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/on-education/2009/06/17/charter-schools-might-not-be-better

No Artificial Flavors

February 16th, 2012
8:56 pm

If charter schools are truly the answer, then all schools in the once great State of Georgia should operate under charter status.

Whatever

February 16th, 2012
9:02 pm

If you want charters in your district then vote in board members who will get it done. If you can’t get the votes then suck it up and go home.

Simple solution without all the fuss.

Linda

February 16th, 2012
9:02 pm

The problem with kids today, i.e. public schools, began in the ’60s, & it’s the fault of liberals & progressives. America was founded on religious principles. We were a Christian nation. We have “progressed” from those principles by a liberated society which thinks that whatever feels good is okay. Over the last few decades, fewer people get married & stay married. Fewer households are made up of families, i.e., fathers & mothers, with grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins, close by. Fewer children know who their fathers are. Fewer brothers & sisters have the same fathers. More children are being raised by their grandmothers. Drugs are readily available to both parents & children. More people exist on govt. handouts, made easier by Obama. Pride is non-existent & envy is encouraged by our president. Welfare reform under Clinton was wiped out by Obama. Even though the majority of Americans & the citizens of the world believe in a higher authority, liberals do not hesitate to ridicule the Christian & Jewish faiths, but never Islam, being politically correct. More people worship the earth & animals than God. Gay marriage & abortions are being pushed on our society, even by our court system.
And we wonder why Muslims hate America.
It is the goal of progressives to dumb down our kids. They have succeeded.
Our culture is on the line, as is our civilization & the future of our country.

Bart Abel

February 16th, 2012
9:03 pm

“Using an individual panel data set to control for student fixed effects, we estimate the impact of charter schools on students in charter schools and in nearby traditional public schools. We find that students make considerably smaller achievement gains in charter schools than they would have in public schools. The large negative estimates of the effects of attending a charter school are neither substantially biased, nor substantially offset, by positive impacts of charter schools on traditional public schools. Finally, we find suggestive evidence that about 30 percent of the negative effect of charter schools is attributable to high rates of student turnover.”

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/edfp.2006.1.1.50

Bart Abel

February 16th, 2012
9:04 pm

“I utilize longitudinal data covering all public school students in Florida to study the performance of charter schools and their competitive impact on traditional public schools. Controlling for student-level fixed effects, I find achievement initially is lower in charters. However, by their fifth year of operation new charter schools reach a par with the average traditional public school in math and produce higher reading achievement scores than their traditional public school counterparts. Among charters, those targeting at-risk and special education students demonstrate lower student achievement, while charter schools managed by for-profit entities peform no differently on average than charters run by nonprofits. Controlling for preexisting traditional public school quality, competition from charter schools is associated with modest increases in math scores and unchanged reading scores in nearby traditional public schools.”

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/edfp.2006.1.1.91

Michael H. Smith

February 16th, 2012
9:04 pm

Where is the data on the student’s performance that transferred from public schools to public charter schools? Did they perform better after attending charter schools?
Was there any measurable change in the student’s attitudes – for the better or worse – expressed after they attended charter schools in comparison to the public schools?
Was parental participation greater after children transferred from a public school to a charter school?

Comparing performances of charter schools to public schools suited your purpose in this blog post but I have other questions that reach for deeper insights into the improvement that was not measured, namely that of students who chose to switch from public to charter, Kyle.

Bart Abel

February 16th, 2012
9:10 pm

I could do this all night. If the point isn’t obvious, charter schools are no silver bullet. But in a world where ideology trumps evidence, I guess they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. And thanks to journalists like Kyle, there’s a huge gap between the perception and the reality. Well done Kyle.

Here’s the deal. It’s not about school choice. It’s about privatizing public schools. It’s about transferring taxpayer funds to private organizations. While many are being distracted by wishful thinking, we could be focusing on what we know (or should know) works. But they are, and we aren’t.

Linda

February 16th, 2012
9:25 pm

Bingo, “It’s not about school choice. It’s about privatizing public schools.”

I don’t know the history behind charter schools, but I believe that the only way to improve education is to privatize education. The fed. dept. of education, begun in 1979, has done nothing but downgrade the capabilities of our youth. We need to focus on our children & their best interests.

Progressive Peach

February 16th, 2012
9:37 pm

Keep [choking] that charter school chicken, Kyle. You and your conservative lackeys will find a way to siphon off our tax dollars to your corporate funders and religious institutions somehow.