A report released by Representative James R. Roebuck, chair of the House Education Committee, found that one of every six charters in the state is “high-performing.
None of the state’s cyber charters is high-performing.
Pennsylvania has 162 brick-and-mortar charters, with 86 in Philadelphia. It has 14 cyber charters.
Representative Roebuck recommended that public schools might learn from the practices of the state’s 28 high-performing charters.
Public schools outperform charter schools. Cyber charters perform worst of all schools. Charter schools, with a few exceptions, do not improve their performance over time. The report says:
“In terms of school performance, in 2013 the state changed how it measures academic performance of schools from Adequate Yearly progress to a School Performance Score on the new School Performance Profiles. Although the measures have changed on average, charter schools, particularly cyber charter schools, still perform academically worse than other traditional public schools. For 2012-2013, based on a scale of 100, the average SPP score for traditional public schools was 77.1, for charter schools 66.4 and for cyber charter schools 46.8. None of the 14 cyber charter schools had SPP scores over 70, considered the minimal level of academic success and 8 cyber charter schools had SPP scores below 50.
These results mirror results in both the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school year where traditional public schools performed better than charter schools and significantly better than cyber charter schools in terms of achieving Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the federal school performance standard established under the federal No Child Left Behind law. AYP is determined by student academic performance on state reading and math assessments (PSSAs).
For 2010-11, while 94% of school districts met AYP, 75% of public schools met AYP. In contrast, only 61% of charter schools met AYP and only two of the 12 cyber charter schools met AYP.
The percentage of students performing at grade level in Math and Reading in order for a school to achieve AYP increased from 67% of students in Math in 2010-2011 to 78% in 2011-2012 and increased from 72% in Reading in 2010-2011 to 81% in 2011-2012. This resulted in reducing the percentage of all public schools achieving AYP in 2011-12 with larger declines for charter and cyber charter schools.
For 2011-12, while 61% of school districts met AYP, 50% of public schools met AYP. In stark contrast, only 29% of charter schools met AYP and none of the 12 cyber charter schools met AYP.
Performance of Charter Schools Based on How Long They Have Existed
In looking at the performance of just brick-and-mortar charter schools, their results do not significantly improve the longer that a charter school has been open. Fifty percent of brick-and-mortar charter schools have now been open for ten years or more. Unfortunately, for 2012-2013, a majority, 51%, of the charter school open 10 years or more have SPP scores below 70. While this is better than those charter schools opened within the last 3 years, where 85% have SPP scores below 70, these results are not encouraging and it raises concerns about renewing many charters with poor performance over so many years.
Charter schools in the Philadelphia school district do slightly better that charter schools located outside Philadelphia the longer that they have been opened, with 52% of charters open 10 years or more in Philadelphia having SPP scores above 70. In contrast, none of the 10 Philadelphia charters open 3 years or less has an SPP score above 70.
For cyber charter schools, no cyber school, no matter how long they have been open has an SPP score above 70.
The report recommends that the state’s 28 high-performing charters might serve as a model. It says:
“Twenty-eight of the 163 charter schools had SPP scores of 80 or above. When examining the characteristics of these high performing charter schools there are certain common characteristics amongst the 28 charter schools. What is most common is that they offer innovative education programs with most of them focused on a specific approach to education instruction or a specific academic area of instructional focus. Three offer the Montessori approach to instruction, many offer longer school days and more days of schools and many offer more individualized education programs. These charter schools also tend to be smaller with less than 1,000 students in part because more of them are elementary schools. Only seven out of the 28 had enrollments more than 1,000 students and only two of the 28 schools serve only a high school population, though there are five charter schools that serve K-12 grades.
“These charter schools also serve significantly fewer special education students than traditional students. Only two of these 28 high performing charter schools have a special education student population greater than the 15% average of traditional public schools. Further, as noted in the 2013 Special Education Funding Commission report, charter school enroll significantly less special education students with severe disabilities than traditional public schools.”
Half of the 28 high-performing charter schools enroll 10% or fewer students with disabilities.
Two interesting findings emerge from this report. One, it echoes the 2009 CREDO report that found that only one of every six charters was high-performing. Two, it echoed previous studies that found that cyber charters get abysmal academic results. It also found that a significant number of students in cyber charters were previously home schooling, meaning that money is siphoned out of the districts’ budgets to pay the sponsors of the cyber charter for their low-quality services to homeschooled students.
Representative Roebuck recommends that the state’s schools can learn from the examples of the 28 high-performing charters. One lesson: accept small numbers of students with disabilities (nothing is said about the nature of disabilities, as many charters do not accept those children with the most challenging disabilities). Given the large proportion of low-performing charter schools, it would have seemed apt to recommend that the charter sector might learn from high-performing public schools. One lesson from high-performing public schools: it is better to have 100% of your teachers certified, not 75%.