Charter Schools: Comparing Apples and Apples

Last week, the Strib came out with the official state No Child Left Behind rankings for state charter and “district” schools. 

While I haven’t seen any of the usual public school apologists crowing about the results yet, they will.  In the wake of MN2020’s hatchet job last month, it can only be a matter of time.

So let me head it off at the pass.  65% of state public school students were deemed “proficient” in math, and 73% in reading.

That compared to 49% and 57% for charter schools statewide.

That doesn’t officially look good for charter schools. 

But let’s remember – the bulk of the charter schools are in the metro area (along with many outstate charters that serve minorities, especially the Native American community).  51% of charter school students statewide are minorities; that average is even higher at inner city schools.  Many – most – of those charter school students in the inner city are there because their parents are dissatisfied – disgusted, even – with the education their children have gotten in the big inner-city schools. 

Of course, the question “does poverty cause poor education results, or do poor education results cause poverty” is a good one to ask – and plays into all possible interpretations of these results.  We can discuss that later.

For now, though, let’s endeavor to compare apples and apples. 

The inner city schools – Minneapolis and Saint Paul – have very similar test results, although Saint Paul’s demographics are much more turbulent.  Similar math scores (46 in Saint Paul, 48 in Minneapolis) and reading totals (52 and 51, respectively).  The numbers in special education are about the same (between 14 and 15%); about 38% of Saint Paul’s students spoke English as a second language, while of Minneapolis students, 6% of those taking the math test and 23% for the reading test were ESL. 

So let’s compare:  Math scores for Minneapolis, Saint Paul and charters statewide are 46,  52 and 49, respectively; for reading, 52, 51 and 57%). 

So as we see, while charter schools are coming in behind statewide school scores, they have a slight nod over the metro schools.

It gets even more interesting when you get into specifics.  Comparing the big city districts – which are between 60-73% low-income – with charters as a whole is interesting.  But how about with charters catering primarily to low-income students?

An excellent comparison is with the controversial Tariq Ibn Ziyad Academy, in Inver Grover Heights.   80% of their students are classifed as low-income, and 68% of the students taking the reading tests spoke English as a second language (double even Saint Paul’s very high number). 

And yet 93% of TIZA’s students passed the Math test, and 68% the reading test – compared again to Saint Paul (46 and 52% for math and reading) and Minneapolis (48 and 51%). 

Outstate?  Let’s compare two smaller schools:  Milroy Public, and Cologne Charter.

Milroy is 38% low income (state average is around 30%), 8% special ed (state average is 13%), and about 7% ESL (below the state average.  57% of Milroy’s students passed the Math test, 68% the reading exam.

The Cologne Academy charter is 27% low-income (a little below state average), and 16% special ed (a little above).  And 86% of its student body passed the Math test, 76% the reading standards.

Read the (uncommonly-informative) link from the Strib.  It’s well worth the read.

For whenever MN2020 wants to start yakking about “achievement gaps”, I mean.

2 thoughts on “Charter Schools: Comparing Apples and Apples

  1. Well done Mitch. You’ve slapped the dolts at MN2020 to the floor before they even got up to dance.

  2. Actually, you are comparing apples and oranges after all. At least in my kids’ charter schools, standardized tests are administered as they come – no prep work. Compare that to public schools where students spend weeks studying the actual test before taking it.

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