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Charter Performance?

Do charter schools perform better than district public schools?


Until we get some kind of standard measurement, we’ll never know exactly how each student is doing relative to another, so all the growth metrics being applied by districts to their testing structures won’t serve much use other than an internal benchmark. However, internally speaking, charter public schools and traditional public schools are, on average, very close in achievement.

Go snag some statewide performance data for a state like Michigan or Florida and you’ll discover something rather interesting about Charter vs. District achievement. What we’ve found is that charters occupy very high positions in achievement, but also very low positions as well. No two charter schools are exactly alike, but we frequently see clusters of high-performing charters at the top averaged out by the ineffectively-managed and poorly-performing charters at the bottom. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of people who set out to start a charter school lack the know-how and resources to do so.

As for district schools, they tend to be more balanced in their performance: lower percentages of spectacular schools, and lower percentages of awful ones as well. Numerically, there are far more high-performing district schools than charter schools, and far more failing district schools than charter schools, but as a percent of the total number of each, more charters occupy the top and bottom rungs (as mentioned above). Traditional district schools have a lot more schools in the middle. Some states use a letter grade to hold their schools accountable, and in these states you see a larger percentage of district schools with a “C” grade than you do charters, while you see a larger percentage of charters with “A” and “F” grades than you do district schools.

In the end, it all averages out and charters and district schools are very close in performance across the board. However, that is when measured statewide. When you look at charters in struggling areas (Detroit is a great case study) compared to the district schools in the same struggling area, you see distinctly higher achievement among charters, and with more challenging demographics. We’d also like to point out that charter schools are doing this on a stricter budget because charters are not funded as much as traditional public schools are, meaning that charter schools are able to achieve the same results as district schools, but with less money.