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2012 Florida Charter Primary School Rankings

The best elementary school in Florida in 2012 was a charter school. If you think that’s no big deal, think about this: almost 70% of its students were on a Free or Reduced Lunch plan.

The complete charter rankings for all Florida primary schools are below.



Because there were so many non-HS charters in Florida in 2012 (148 Elementaries, 81 Middles, and 106 Combos), we are only ranking the charter primary schools today, i.e. those schools serving Kindergarten to 5th grade. We will continue with charter intermediates (6-8) and charter combos (e.g. K-8) in following posts.

As for the ranking criteria, we followed the FLDOE’s scoring model described in our previous article on Florida’s Charter High Schools. We will only measure the Base Component and, if applicable, the Middle School Component, which brings the scoring matrix to a maximum of 800 or 900 points respectively. This value is known as the Adjusted Points Earned (APE), which becomes a new value (Final Adjusted Points – FAPs) when HS grades are included. Again, see our previous article for scoring clarification.

Also, keep in mind that when we refer to “the best school” or “better schools” in the rankings below, we do so only based off the FLDOE’s APE score, which doesn’t take into account things like extracurricular activities, athletic programs, or a challenging student demography. Although the final letter grade for the school does include the latter variable, school rankings never completely reflect the reality on the ground so proceed with that understanding.


Florida’s Primary Charter Schools (grades K-5): Charter School Tops Statewide List

The first thing that jumped out to us was obviously that the best Primary School in the state of Florida in 2012 was a charter school.

Hartridge Academy in Polk County, FL earned an APE score of 782, which was 45 points higher than its nearest competition. With less than 200 students and a simple website, Hartridge might not look like much at first, but the school managed to score phenomenally on the state’s APE measurement even with an FRL percentage of almost 70%. Reviews of the school indicate that small class sizes and free weekly tutoring are largely responsible for the success there, and parents have been shown to wait over 3 years to enroll their children at Hartridge.

The next closest school was a conventional elementary run by Brevard County: Freedom 7 Elementary School of International Studies. If that name sounds charteresque, it should; the school runs a primary magnet IB program with restrictive acceptance, an application fee, uniforms, a waiting list, and a lottery, and it is part of Brevard’s own Millennium Schools of Choice network. That network includes two other primary schools, both of which occupy the Top 10 of Florida’s District-run schools. Brevard County itself only had one primary school in 2012 graded less than a “C,” which is impressive given the 53.4% FRL rate in Brevard primary schools. Brevard demonstrates that school choice works, even if the school isn’t chartered.

However, those three Brevard primary schools in the District Primary Top 10 have an average FRL rate of 12.7% (Freedom 7’s FRL rate is 9%), and the whole District Primary Top 10 itself has an FRL average of 20.6%. Considering that Hartridge Academy’s FRL rate is almost 70%, and the charter primary Top 10 averages an FRL rate of 35.6%, it seems that charters once again prove that they are able to perform as well or better than District-run schools in the same category, even with more challenging demographics.


Academic Parity Across the Board, But Deeper Analysis Shows Charters Outperform at Top and Middle Percentiles

Another thing we noticed was the academic parity across the board of charter primary schools vs. conventional primary schools.

Of the 1670 District-run primary schools in Florida, the average APE score was 525, while the average APE score for Florida’s 148 charter primaries was 524. This proves that Florida charter primary schools (on average) performed no better or worse than Florida District-run primary schools.

Given that the best primary school in Florida was a charter school, but across-the-board averages show academic parity, we wanted to get an idea of the stratification within these rankings that might explain these discrepancies. To do this, we had to compare percentiles.

If we only calculate the top 50th Percentile of both types (Top 74 charter primaries vs. Top 837 District-run primaries), charter primaries average an APE score of 597, while conventional primaries average a lower APE score of 579. However, if we measure the bottom 50th Percentile of both, we see an average charter APE score of 450, and a higher average conventional primary school APE score of 471. That is, the best half of charter primaries outperform conventional primaries by 18 points, but the worst half of charter primaries underperform conventional primaries by 21 points.

These results are intriguing because they seem to support the school of thought that charter schools tend to perform very well or very poorly, with a scattering of charter schools across the middle percentiles. We can test this again by sampling APE scores across the middle 60% of cases, eliminating the influence of the top and bottom 20th percentiles. When we do this, charter primary APE scores come out to an average of about 530, while conventional primary APE scores come out to an average of about 523.

We had expected to see either charter parity or slight outperformance given that these middle percentile scores would have to help close that 3 point gap between the top and bottom percentiles to match the across-the-board parity that we saw earlier. Still, a 7 point victory in the middle percentile is good news for Florida charter operators because the data imply that not only do the Top 50th Percentile of charter primary schools outperform the Top 50th Percentile of conventional primary schools, but the middle 60% do as well, meaning that the statewide charter primary APE score average is being dragged down by some very bad charter APE scores at the bottom.

Regardless of any academic data suggesting a “score” or “rank,” we must not lose track of the populations that these schools are serving. The average FRL rate for all charter primary schools was 57% in 2012, and although conventional primary school FRL rates were higher (68%), the Top 10% performing District-run primary schools only had an average FRL rate of 31% and an average APE score of 648, while the Top 10% performing charter primaries had an average FRL of 33% and average APE score of 685.

In conclusion, Florida charter primary schools are almost identical to conventional primary schools in terms of performance across-the-board. However, when we look deeper we see that charter primaries actually outperform conventional primaries in both the Top 50th Percentile and the middle percentiles as well. This indicates that Florida charter primary schools are experiencing performance drag by their bottom-tier representatives. Every effort should be made to turn those schools around, or the charters will have to be expired or even revoked in order to maintain the integrity of school choice in Florida. One of those bottom-tier charter primary schools has already been closed, so we will reinvestigate the issue when we release the 2013 rankings.


FL charter primary rankings 2012

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