The real statistics for Georgia’s charter schools

Of all the worthless statistics that get thrown around in the charter-schools debate, perhaps the least important is the comparison between all charter schools and all traditional public schools statewide.

It’s a favorite figure among opponents of the constitutional amendment on this November’s ballot, which would affirm the state’s ability to create public charter schools. Among those who have trotted it out is state schools superintendent John Barge.

Here’s the statistic: In the 2010-11 school year, 73 percent of all Georgia public schools met the federally mandated adequate yearly progress, or AYP, while only 70 percent of all charter schools did.

With results like that, why bother with charter schools? Right?

While Barge and his fellow travelers in the educational establishment are correct about this figure, it is entirely meaningless in the current debate.

Utterly, wholly, completely meaningless. Irrelevant. Misleading, in fact.

For starters, that 73-to-70 comparison does not separate the charter schools approved by local school boards, which are not at issue in the November referendum, from those approved by the state, which are.

Reflect that key difference, and suddenly state-chartered schools have the advantage: 75 percent of them met AYP (this and the other more-detailed stats in this column come from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, also using data for 2010-11).

Still, even that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Not every part of the state has charter schools. They tend not to open in districts served by top-notch traditional public schools; the point of school choice is to help students in lower-performing areas.

Compare state-chartered schools only to the traditional public schools in the districts they serve, and they look even better. Traditional public schools in the districts served by these charters logged an AYP of just 67 percent — compared, again, to 75 percent for the state-chartered schools.

But even that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The advantage of some state-chartered schools over the traditional schools with which they compete is even starker when we look at the scores of racial and ethnic minorities.

Take Ivy Preparatory Academy, a school that received a state charter after the Gwinnett County school board rejected it. In meeting or exceeding state standards on the 2011 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, black students at Ivy Prep outscored their counterparts in local traditional schools 93 percent to 79 percent. For Hispanic students, it was 88 percent to 80 percent. For Asian students, it was 97 percent to 81 percent.

And for those who say the state charter-schools amendment is only for the benefit of metro Atlanta: Don’t tell that to the students, parents and teachers at Charter Conservatory for Liberal Arts and Technology in Bulloch County, in southeast Georgia. CCAT recorded a graduation rate of 96 percent — compared to 69 percent in Bulloch County’s traditional high schools.

Not every state-chartered school performed higher in all aspects. But the beauty of charter schools is that the ones that don’t produce good results can be closed down, unlike bad traditional schools that keep failing students year after year.

That said, these are not trivial differences. You just won’t hear them from those who support the status quo of keeping students trapped in failing schools, stuck because of the establishment’s stubbornness.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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194 comments Add your comment

ByteMe - Got ilk?

September 24th, 2012
10:31 am

Do these state charter schools have to take all students regardless of ability? I know that local ones do, just don’t know about the state ones.

Mary Elizabeth

September 24th, 2012
10:38 am

State charter schools, such as Ivy Preparatory Academy, more than likely have a higher percentage of parents who are actively engaged in their children’s education than many of those parents whose children remain in traditional public schools. I say this without undue judgment. Also, charter schools serve only a small population of a traditional school’s total student body. Traditional public schools serve all of the students in a district.

My concern with the movement toward state charter schools is that this movement may be more politically motivated, than educationally motivated. Parents presently have the legal right to appeal charter schools, which have been denied by local school districts, to the State Board of Education.

My reasons for thinking that this is a highly political issue are the following: (1) There was an unusually intense debate on the constitutional amendment in Georgia’s last legislative session. (2) There have been large amounts of money coming into Georgia from out-of-state donors to support passage of this amendment. (3) State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. John Barge, has received unusually heightened criticism by politicians for voicing that he cannot support this amendment because traditional public schools are already underfunded in Georgia. (4) Polls have been conducted, regarding this amendment, by a Republican polling group that is known to have advocated for Republican causes.

Public education, as we have known it, may be on the line in Georgia because of this amendment. I will vote NO because I wish to improve public education from within, with the help of charter schools which will work with school districts, not against them, to that purpose. It is my opinion that traditional public schools were not designed for profit purposes, but were designed to serve the common good of all. I do not wish to see them supplanted by schools which may end up being managed by for-profit management companies.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
10:45 am

Kyle, no blog today trying to promote Willard’s cooked return or the “good faith” letter that says so?
No blog on the more than $140 million in taxes that went unpaid because of hidden off shore accounts? I forgot, for you, it doesn’t matter. Things are effed no matter who wins, right? Wave the white flag, Kyle. Now “go the distance” and expose the corruption that is choking your party and our government. Saxby, Johnny and Deal are next on the chopping block. Georgia will be Blue again! FORWARD!

Just Saying..

September 24th, 2012
10:47 am

Pssst, Kyle!
There’s a Presidential election five weeks away. 435 House seats. Control of the Senate. According to your frequent posters, “…the most important presidential election in my lifetime….in American history…in the history of the world…sets America’s course for the next century…”

Yes, actually, I Have seen the polls.

I’d find something else to talk about, too.

LoganvilleResident

September 24th, 2012
10:49 am

Actually, your statistic is meaningless as well Kyle. The *true* statistic is how are the students served by charter schools performing compared to their performance in public schools. If you want a true apples to apples comparison, this is what you have to measure. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be easy to do.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
10:52 am

Also, I agree with Mary Elizabeth that state charter schools do an excellent job. My wife works for one. Parent participation is required as is community participation. Unless xenophobes use them as an exclusionary institution, public charter schools are an excellent educational choice.

bluecoat

September 24th, 2012
10:54 am

Forget ALEC’s go with Barge.

sailfish

September 24th, 2012
10:56 am

There is no magic wand in education; there is however a direct correlation to better students, better schools because of better parenting. That’s it in a nutshell. You can take a charter school and put it in the inner city and it will not out perform the comparible public school. It’s not rocket science nor a mystery, the family that values education, promotes education will make sure that school is on the right track…

Mary Elizabeth

September 24th, 2012
10:58 am

Gravy Train, 10:52 am

I do not support state charter schools. I support charter schools that are authorized by, and work with, local school districts to ensure that all of society’s children are served well, not just a few.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
10:58 am

No blog on how the Libyans are fighting the terrorists themselves? Looks like “they all hate us” is just fear mongering to play on the feeble minds of a xenophobic base being led to the slaughter by a small group of plutocrats.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
10:59 am

Mary Elizabeth @ 10:38: Your reasons are misguided.

1. “Unusually intense debate”? A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote on an issue that, by definition, is of unusual importance (most new laws do not require a change to the constitution). Of course the debate was intense!

2. I haven’t looked at the donations, but I have read news reports to this effect. Of course, a lot of out-of-state people own businesses in this state and would like to see a better-educated work force here, so the mere fact of their donations does not prove they are interested in politics rather than education.

3. Barge has received such criticism because he previously told his new critics, in public and, I’m told, in private, that he would not oppose the amendment. That kind of thing tends to provoke more criticism than usual. (Btw, the only reason you don’t think Barge is being political in his stance is because you agree with him.)

4. In fact, the consultants working for the amendment campaign are bipartisan — the principals in the firm include Republicans and Democrats.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:00 am

Just Saying @ 10:47: I’m not going to stop writing about the presidential campaign. But I believe this charter schools amendment is also important to Georgians.

Streetracer

September 24th, 2012
11:01 am

Unfortunationatly this is another debate about something that doesn’t really matter. The keys to a good education are parental/student expectations and student work ethic. For those who think differently, please list the great teachers and great schools that Lincoln attended.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:01 am

Loganville @ 10:49: That kind of longitudinal tracking is only now getting under way due to funding and technological issues. I agree that it would be a better way of measuring results.

MANGLER

September 24th, 2012
11:08 am

The comment about simply shutting down an under-performing charter school says a lot to me. It essentially admits to being run like a business and if the business struggles, it closes. Only the difference between a business and a school is you toss kids out onto the same streets and back into the under-performing public schools that they transferred from originally, only in the mean time, those public schools had funds diverted from them to support that charter school and are in worse condition than before. If the publically funded charter school fails, does that money get refunded? Likely not.

The only way to make privately run charter schools viable is to pick a side – close all public schools and let every school charge tuition like the private ones do, or only allow public schools to use public dollars. Giving public dollars to private schools run by for profit companies is not acceptable.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:08 am

Streetracer @ 11:01: Right, because this country is full of people just like Abraham Lincoln. Also, it’s still 1820.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:10 am

I wouldn’t trust Nathan Deal with a state regulated program either, Mary Elizabeth. I only meant to agree with you that charter schools are good things for our children. If all of them are run like the one my wife teaches at, we couldn’t go wrong. The school is very diverse. There are children from every race and every socioeconomic back ground. Dress codes are enforced. They even separate the boys and girls for special classes at times to talk about things that pertain specifically to them. The part I like the most is the required participation of parents for all school functions. Plus the local community is also greatly involved. I would love to give you the name of the school but I fear they would not appreciate a group of armed and angry ditto-heads disrupting them.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:14 am

Mangler @ 11:08:

1. They’re not private schools. They’re public schools.

2. Not all state-chartered schools are run by for-profit companies.

3. Local school districts already outsource a great deal of their operations to for-profit companies. Construction companies are one example.

4. There’s already “profit” — money left over after accounting for all operating costs — in today’s public schools. It just disappears into redundant, unproductive, largely unaccountable central-office bureaucracies.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:15 am

Not to say that you are a ditto-head, Mary Elizabeth, but there are a few real cooks that read (I think) and post here.

JF McNamara

September 24th, 2012
11:15 am

All you done is taken what you called useless statistics and cherry picked them to prove your point. You need to answer the question of did the best students simply move from public to charter. That’s the crux of the debate. Essentially, all of the “good” students move and leave the public school to struggle.

Did the students in the schools actually show improvement against their baseline before entering the school? If the students accepted into the charter were bottom of the barrel in state testing and showed dramatic improvement, then you are right. That’s not answered in the massive amount of words in the article, is it?

Streetracer

September 24th, 2012
11:17 am

Alright Kyle. But the point remains why would a student put any effort into learning if there was no expection of sucess and no desire to suceed?

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:18 am

JF @ 11:15: So now comparing apples to apples on the basis the issue is being decided is “cherry-picking”???

As for your question, see my 11:01. DOE has been talking about this at least since I returned to Atlanta, but it’s only now beginning to be implemented.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:19 am

Streetracer @ 11:17: He/she wouldn’t. Which is why we need to do something other than the static model we keep trying without better results.

ByteMe - Got ilk?

September 24th, 2012
11:19 am

I’m not going to stop writing about the presidential campaign.

In late November, can you please please please stop writing about the presidential campaign?

:)

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:21 am

ByteMe @ 11:19: Sure, as long as the Democrats aren’t still suing to overturn any results they don’t like…

ByteMe - Got ilk?

September 24th, 2012
11:23 am

Sure, as long as the Democrats aren’t still suing to overturn any results they don’t like…

Seriously? You think it’s that close?? Interesting. Perhaps you’ll elaborate on how you see that in another column. Don’t want to distract from this one.

Meanwhile, I asked earlier still don’t know how this works: do state chartered schools work like private schools for enrollment or public schools?

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:26 am

JF, I can attest to the fact that children’s comprehension and test scores greatly improve when moving from a regular public school to a public charter school. When I adopted my nephew, he tested very poorly. We were told that his scores showed him to be mentally challenged. He is a special needs child and he came from dirt. Sadly, both of his parents are drug riddled deadbeats who couldn’t care less about educating their children. They were not involved. After just one year in the school, my nephew tested out of the special education program. Of course, all of the extra time my wife and I spent with him working on things at home were a large contributing factor. It takes a community to raise a child.

Rockerbabe

September 24th, 2012
11:29 am

If you want to improve educaton, then get the politicians and the money-grubbers out of the system and leave the education of kids to the teachers, prinicipals and the parents.

Charter schools are not the answer to much of anything.
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/09/24-0

lex

September 24th, 2012
11:34 am

Monopolies rarely improve from within, as they are shielded from the harsh pressures of competition. The inability and unwillingness of their managers and workers to innovate and adapt are the reasons most large, old once successful companies fail. Those shortcomings in education bureaucrats and teachers are major reasons the public school system as a whole is such a massive failure.

Streetracer

September 24th, 2012
11:34 am

Kyle @ 1:19

I agree that we need structural change, but changing the structure of the school system is not the basic problem. We have to somehow (and I don’t know how) change the perceptions/expectations of the population to realize that teachers don’t educate those who don’t want to be educated even if they are forced to spend X hours in a classroom

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:35 am

Another thing this state desperately needs is well funded vocational schools for teens. Too many of our high school children are falling through the cracks because they have no other choice. Not every child will be college material. That is a fact we need to address. “No Child Left Behind,” indeed.

Kyle Wingfield

September 24th, 2012
11:35 am

ByteMe @ 11:23: Generally speaking, they have to take all comers. I don’t want to say this is true in every single case, because I’m sure someone would find an exception.

LoganvilleResident

September 24th, 2012
11:35 am

@Gravy 1126 AM

Congrats on doing a great thing and taking in a child that needed help. My wife and I are doing the same thing for two kids. One of them pretty much has the same academic issues.

However, do you truly believe that his jump in performance was based solely in the change to a charter school? I’m willing to bet it had more to do with the fact that you actually cared about him and took time to work with him.

ByteMe - Got ilk?

September 24th, 2012
11:36 am

Ok, thanks, Kyle.

JF McNamara

September 24th, 2012
11:37 am

@Gravy Train,

The difference is that the kid you adopted now has parents who care. Nothing in the world beats that.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:38 am

Luckily the is The Job Corps, where my nephew is currently attending orientation. I for one appreciate the help that is provided by our community and our government. I dare one of you ditto-heads to call that “mooching.” Go ahead and prove your idiocy.

JF McNamara

September 24th, 2012
11:42 am

@Kyle,

Yes, its cherry picking. Someone on the other side will take your analysis and say why its not apples to apples. I’m sure they’ll say something to sample size, Extrapolation across the state, etc. Both sides just make up excuses to explain while they’re right.

The real problem is that no one actually answered the basic question of did the specific set of students who entered the charter school actually improve. That’s an answer that no one can cherry pick. They either improved on their baseline or they did not.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:43 am

He was able to get much more targeted and individual instruction at the charter school as well. Their class sizes are much smaller. Think of when you were in college and had to take a core class that was so large they held it in an auditorium, versus taking the advanced version of the same class that had maybe 20 people in it. The opportunity for open discussion and student participation is greatly enhanced by the smaller class size. Plus, parent participation is not voluntary at our school, it is required.

bluecoat

September 24th, 2012
11:44 am

Why create another state agency to approve these schools,more government,more money,more unnecessary cost.Loss of local control.If charter is denied by local,then charter can appeal to state boe.Just fine as is.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:48 am

JF, I’m going to ask my wife if they keep track of those numbers at our school. I bet they do. The really cool thing is that almost a third of the school includes poverty level ESOL students. (English as a Second Language students) They go to class with another third of the student population that are from the surrounding affluent neighborhoods. The rest of the students fall somewhere between the two. It is not a private or exclusionary institution.

yuzeyurbrane

September 24th, 2012
11:52 am

The other side of issue used statistics to advance their argument; so it is fair for Kyle to do same. I am not opposed to charter schools per se. I am concerned about redundancy and concentration of power at state govt. level, duplicative state bureaucracies, waste of taxpayer money, and possibilities for corruption of state officials by so many out of state for profit education vendors, transparency, accountability, and overall impact on price and quality of public education in Georgia. I would like to see Kyle and other amendment supporters and opponents address those issues.

Mary Elizabeth

September 24th, 2012
11:57 am

Kyle, 10:59 am

Kyle, I continue to believe that this amendment is highly political. Allow me to take each of your points and explain, with some detail or documentation of sources, as to why I made my particular points at 10:38 am. I will address your first two points in this post, and the last two points in my following post. I thank you for allowing me to present my points of view on your blog, because I recognize that my political leanings are different from your own.

(1) I was present when the House Education Committee allowed public speakers to give their points-of-view regarding the consitutional amendment, so that I actually experienced the degree of intensity present in the room, firsthand. I thought that the chairman of that committee was somewhat out-of-line by stating, “We are going to pass this resolution,” (HR 1162) before the vote was even cast. One representative on that committee, moreover, cautioned the committee to listen, in fuller detail, to what the public was saying and not to rush headstrong into passing the amendment resolution because the full ramifications of passage of that resolution, in years to come, needed to be considered.

(2) In the AJC, page A-1, September 14, 2012, the article entitled, “Charter School’s Amendment – Money pushing for vote not local – Donors signal Ga. vote draws national interest,” was published. The article was written by Wayne Washington of the AJC. Below are a few excerpts from that article:
——————————————————-

“Almost all of the roughly $500,000 an advocacy group has raised to persuade Georgians to amend the constitution so more charter schools are approved has come from out-of-state donors, campaign disclosure forms show.

Families for Better Public Schools, which is leading the charge for the proposed state constitutional amendment, reported at the end of August that it had raised $486,750 in cash contributions. Of that total, $20,990 – just more than 4 percent – came from Georgia donors.

Vote Smart, a coalition of groups opposing the amendment, has raised $80,951, much of it from Georgia teachers, principals and superintendents.

The truckload of out-of-state cash highlights the fact that Georgia’s battle over charter schools has become a national focal point in the school choice movement.

Big-money donors dot the contributor list for Families for Better Public Schools. Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton of Arkansas has given $250,000 to the cause. Two contributors from Michigan have donated a combined $50,000, and an organization in Virginia has forked over $100,000. . .

‘The question is, why are so many for-profit companies funding the Georgia campaign pushing this amendment?’ asked Tom Upchurch, campaign chairman for Vote Smart. ‘This isn’t about education. This is about money to be made and money to be paid.’ . . .”
——————————————————————

To read more excerpts from this article, please read my post at 1:50 pm on Maureen Downey’s blog, which can be viewed through this link:

http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/09/10/does-charter-school-funding-leave-taxpayers-holding-the-bag/?cp=5
——————————————————–

My more detailed explanation of my reasoning, regarding points 3 and 4, will follow in my next post on this thread.

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
11:58 am

It’s time we demand full funding and real results from our schools. Maybe, we can get elected officials in this state to spend our money on our children where it is intended to go instead of lining their own pockets. Ahem, Nathan Deal!

JF McNamara

September 24th, 2012
12:00 pm

@Gravy Train,

There is no need. The kids take the CRCT every year in grades 1 -8 and they can be grouped into a percentile among all students. Track CRCT performance for those going from public to charter and see if they increase in the percentiles of all students after joining the charter school.

It’s that simple. All that is missing is the will to answer the question.

jd

September 24th, 2012
12:09 pm

No other state has agreed to allowing an state bureaucracy, appointed, not elected, to take government out of the hands of those elected by the people. Why should georgia?

No Artificial Flavors

September 24th, 2012
12:12 pm

Oh boy, a new state bureaucracy to run parallel to the current system. How fiscally responsible, GOP!

mountain man

September 24th, 2012
12:14 pm

“Track CRCT performance for those going from public to charter and see if they increase in the percentiles of all students after joining the charter school”

That would be an interesting experiment. Especially if they go froma public school that does a very poor job of handling discipline problems. Let us see if those discipline problems left in the classroom had a negative effect on the other students.

I think it is self-evident.

mountain man

September 24th, 2012
12:17 pm

At least with charter schools a parent can CHOOSE to send their kids to a school that manages their discipline problems. (and/or attendance, social promotion, SPED, or any of the other main issues not currently being addressed in public schools)

Mary Elizabeth

September 24th, 2012
12:20 pm

I regret that I cannot keep posting on this issue because of a high blood pressure problem which I must monitor. However, briefly, on points 3 and 4.

(3) I believe that Superintendent of Schools John Barge made a change of mind once he analyzed fully how adversely the financial repercussions that a parallel educational delivery of state charter schools would cost traditional public schools, which are already underfunded.

Moreover, I believe that Supt. Barge made this change of his decision regarding the constitutional amendment based on educational reasons, not political ones. He is a Republican who supports charter schools. I am a Democrat. In fact, I have complimented Dr. Barge on making an educational, not political, decision, that might not be popular with his fellow Republicans.

(4) This is what I previously posted on Maureen Downey’s blog regarding the polling group:

“I would encourage all readers to check out Jim Galloway’s “Political Insider” column regarding the poll taken to assess the charter school movement in Georgia, entitled, ‘Your morning jolt: Charter school support holds steady at 58 percent,’ September 19, 2012. Galloway writes in his opening line, ‘The forces behind Georgia’s charter school amendment to the state constitution are out with a new poll this morning that shows voters still comfortably in favor of the measure.’

As the last poster on that thread, I suggested that readers to check out information about this polling group at this link: http://www.mclaughlinonline.com/5

There, readers will learn that this is a Republican polling group, not a non-partisan one. On the polling group’s website are these words: ‘The Washington Times cites McLaughlin and Associates as one of the best Republican polling firms.’ Among its clients are Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Govenor Casey Cagle. The CEO and Partner John McLaughlin writes on the ‘Home Page’ of this website that his firm had been ‘working with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to help him win a majority in Congress.’

This polling group, evidently then, acts to help clients win elections, not simply to give them polling results. Moreover, in previewing the questions that this polling group submitted to Georgians on the constitutional amendment (from the link provided on that Galloway thread), I found the questions to be quite leading in promoting the value of this constitutional amendment. That is my opinion. It is, also, my opinion that the Republican leaders in Georgia have actively engaged in establishing within Georgia educational policies that are very similar to those advocated by national Republican ideologues of power and influence.”

Gravy Train

September 24th, 2012
12:27 pm

I say full funding now. Full funding means we will have to build more schools to meet the demand for smaller class sizes. That means a lot of unemployed construction workers will have more jobs. That means the building will require maintenance. More Jobs. The schools will need to be staffed with quality educators and administrators. More Jobs. Local vendors will have access to the school. More jobs. We the people get jobs and our children get a quality education. Every child can have a fighter’s chance to succeed. We All Win! I know you will ask “How will we fund this real road to recovery?” I’ll let a guy who owes his community over $140 million explain that? Hell, no! Vote the obstructionists and plutocrats out of office! Let’s get to work! WE ARE ALL AMERICANS! Forward not Back!