Chamber Business News

Examining charter school performance

It is a common belief that charter schools recruit high-performing academic students from district schools. In other words, it is said they skim ‘the cream of the crop.’

However, new research from the Center for Student Achievement proves otherwise.

The average 2015 AzMerit Scores by Subject and Migration Path analyzes the AzMerit scores of students along with their migration path between district schools and charter schools.

The AzMerit is an annual statewide test that measures how students are performing in English language arts (ELA) and math.

“The Center for Student Achievement’s tracking of transfer data shows that Arizona charters are bringing in transfers from districts with below average AZMerit scores, and on the other end sending transfers to districts with above average scores,” said  Dr. Matthew Ladner, senior research strategist at the Arizona Chamber Foundation. “This is consistent with the legal requirement that charter schools hold an open enrollment lottery, but is very difficult to square with the notion that Arizona charters are skimming the cream of students.”

The research indicates that students who moved from a district school to a charter school received an average math score of approx. -0.15 and an average ELA score of approx. -0.09. Seeing as the students who went from district to charter scored below average on the AzMerit, the charter schools could not have skimmed ‘the cream of the crop’ from the district schools.

Students who stayed at a district school scored significantly lower than students who went from a district to charter, charter to district, or who stayed at a charter school.

According to the research, those students received an average of approx. -0.25 in math and ELA.

Students who transferred out of a charter school into a district school performed better than students who stayed at a district school.

The students received an average math score of approx. 0.03 and an average ELA score of approx. 0.09.

The students who stayed at a charter school had the highest performance on the AzMerit. They received an average math score of approx. of 0.13 and an average ELA score of approx. of 0.23.

Another study from the Center for Student Achievement disproves the notion that charter schools try to take high-performing students from district schools.

The Counts by School Choice Option in Nine Maricopa County Attendance Zones research shows 31 percent of students utilized district open enrollment and 16 percent utilized charter school .

The Arizona Department of Education develops an annual achievement profile for the public schools, including charter schools, based on an A through F scale.

The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools holds charter schools accountable for their academic performance. If an Arizona charter schools receives an ‘F’ grade the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools will issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke, which means the schools will be shut down.

But, the school can take one year to improve if it enters into a consent agreement.

“If they improve during that year, they’re allowed to stay open and continue the improvement. If they do not improve, then their school is automatically closed,” Kathy Senseman, Arizona State Board for Charter Schools president, said.

Sierra Ciaramella

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