Newly released state report cards show that 53% of independent charter schools in Milwaukee are not meeting expectations.

Erin Richards of the Journal-Sentinel writes:

Despite having more freedom over curriculum, budgets and staffing than traditional public schools, the majority of Milwaukee’s independent charter schools are not meeting performance expectations, according to statewide report card results for 2012-’13.

Of the 17 independent charters in Milwaukee that received a rating through the state’s new school report card accountability system, 53% fell below expectations, with two schools authorized by the City of Milwaukee receiving a failing grade.

The report cards released by the state this month are not perfect measures of school progress, but the results still raise questions about whether independent charters should be producing better results. The schools are publicly financed but privately managed, and are given freedom from bureaucratic restraints on school districts in exchange for upholding a promise to deliver on performance.

“It’s pretty clear we all have work to do,” said Cindy Zautcke, who directs the City of Milwaukee’s charter school initiative.

The discussion about performance is also pertinent because of a new law the state Legislature passed this spring that allows independent charter schools to expand to the five-county Milwaukee area, if the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee agrees to authorize the potential schools.

In addition:

A total of 18 independent charter schools were rated, including 17 in Milwaukee and one in Racine. Together those rated schools enrolled almost 7,500 students.

■ In Milwaukee, independent charters authorized by UWM posted better overall grades than schools authorized by Milwaukee’s Common Council. The average report card score out of 100 for UWM charters was 65.7, compared with 57.8 for the city’s charter schools.

■ As a sector, Milwaukee’s independent charter schools outscored Milwaukee Public Schools. Among independent charters in the city, 47% met or exceeded the state’s expectations. In MPS, 25% of the rated schools met or exceeded expectations.

■ But on a percentage basis, the 134 schools rated in MPS educated three times as many students learning English and twice as many students with special needs, compared with independent charters. The charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of white students and lower percentage of students in poverty than MPS.

The leader of the local charter school association said the report cards were not a good measure of school quality.

The two City of Milwaukee-authorized schools that received the lowest grade, “fails to meet expectations,” were Milwaukee Math and Science Academy and Milwaukee Collegiate Academy, formerly called CEO Leadership Academy and connected to voucher school advocate Howard Fuller.

Read more from Journal Sentinel:
Follow us: @JournalSentinel on Twitter