Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, has analyzed the latest state report cards. The state’s Governor, John Kasich, is pro-charter, pro-voucher, and pro-market forces. He is no friend to public education. The legislature is the same. They want more schools that are privately managed. As we saw in a post yesterday, Ohio has a parent trigger law, and (as I posted yesterday) the State Education Department has hired StudentsFirst (founded by Michelle Rhee) to inform parents in Columbus about their right to convert their low-performing public school to a charter or hand it over to a charter management organization. Given the statistics in this post, the odds are that the parents will turn their low-performing public school into an even lower-performing charter school, with no hope of escape.
Yet when the state report cards came out, public schools overwhelmingly received higher grades than charter schools. Dyer explains in this post that “The Ohio Report Cards are now all out, and the news is worse for Ohio’s embattled Charter Schools than it was last year. Charter Schools received more Fs than As, Bs and Cs combined. Their percentage of Fs went up from about 41% last year to nearly 44% this year.” Think of it, nearly half the charters in the state earned an F grade, yet the state wants MORE of them.
Dyer also found that the public schools in the Big 8–Ohio’s urban districts–face more challenges than charters, yet still outperform the urban charters. He writes:
In further analyzing the Ohio Report Card data released today, schools in Ohio’s Big 8 urban centers (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown) scored higher on their performance index score (the closest thing Ohio has to an overall performance assessment at this point) than Charter Schools, despite having substantially higher percentages of children who were economically disadvantaged. A staggering 51% of Big 8 urban buildings have more than 95% of their students designated as economically disadvantaged (the Ohio Department of Education only says buildings have “>95.0″ if their economic disadvantaged number is higher than 95%).
So, despite having more than half their buildings with, for all intents and purposes, all their kids economically disadvantaged, Ohio’s Big 8 urban buildings actually perform better, on average, than Ohio’s Charter Schools, which were originally intended to “save” children from “failing” urban buildings.
Dyer also notes that “Of the top 200 PI [Performance Index] scores, 10 are Charters, 190 are districts. Of the bottom 200 PI scores, 21 are districts and 179 are Charters.”
When Dyer looked at Value-Added Measures for districts, the public school districts still outperformed charters, showing more test score growth than charters.
The puzzle in these results is why Ohio policymakers–the Governor and the Legislature–want more charters. The answer, as we have observed again and again, is that sponsors and advocates for charters make large political contributions to elected officials. They have become a potent special interest group. This is a case where results don’t matter.
The question is, who will save poor children from failing charter schools? Or will Ohio recklessly continue to authorize more charter schools without regard to the performance of the charter sector?
I should point out here, as I have in the past, that I think school report cards with a single letter grade, is one of the stupidest public policy ideas in the “reform” bag of tricks. There is no way that a letter grade can accurately reflect the work of a complex institution or the many people in it. Think of a single child coming home from school with a report card that contained only one letter, and it gives some notion of what a simplistic idea it is to grade an entire school in this way. Nonetheless, this is the system now in use in many states (pioneered by the master of ersatz reform, Jeb Bush), so I report what the state reports.