Conventional wisdom, writes blogger Steve Hinnefeld over at School Matters, says charter schools are outperforming public schools.
But his analysis of 2013 ISTEP+ pass rates at high poverty schools shows traditional public school students passing more frequently than their peers at charters:
I merged Department of Education spreadsheets with data on free and reduced-price lunch counts and ISTEP-Plus passing rates. Then I sorted by free-and-reduced-lunch rates and focused on schools where 80 percent or more students qualified for lunch assistance. Results include:
For charter schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 48 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 62.3 percent; passing rate for math, 62.5 percent.
For conventional public schools: Average passing rate for both E/LA and math, 57.2 percent; passing rate for E/LA, 64.1 percent; passing rate for math, 68.1 percent.
The data set includes only schools that enroll students in grades 3-8, who take ISTEP exams; it excludes high schools and many primary-grade schools. I also tried to screen out nonstandard schools such as juvenile detention centers and dropout recovery schools.
Again, the differences aren’t huge but they appear to be significant. Suppose students in high-poverty traditional public schools passed the tests at the same rate as students in high-poverty charter schools. The result would have been nearly 1,000 fewer students passing in E/LA and 2,000 fewer in math.
Charter schools are public schools that aren’t a part of the geographic district in which they are located. They can’t charge tuition and are funded on a per-pupil basis.
As we’ve written before, Indiana charter schools received fewer A’s and B’s in 2012-13 than all public schools did as a group. Less than 25 percent of charters received the top grades last year, compared to 65 percent of all public schools.