Here’s more fuel for the fire in the charter school debate.
Student achievement data compiled by the Florida Department of Education suggests charter students are performing better than their peers in traditional schools.
That goes against research by Dr. Stanley Smith, a University of Central Florida business professor.
He found that charters perform worse than traditional schools when poverty and minority status are taken into account.
But state department of education data shows charter schools perform better.
The department is required to publish an annual report comparing the performance of students in charters versus students in traditional public schools.
The latest report for the 2010-2011 school year looks at performance according to grade level, subject area, and demographics.
Adam Miller is Charter Schools Director in FDOE’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice.
“We look at African-American students, Hispanic students, students that are eligible for free and reduced price lunch, and then ESE as well – Exceptional Student Education - and look at those comparisons across grade levels and subject area,” Miller said. “The report has 168 comparisons, and it’s based on about three and a half million test scores.”
For the most recent report, the state had 456 charters operating in 43 school districts and at two state universities.
The student population measured was 157,389 in charters versus 2,582,013 in traditional schools.
“We looked at FCAT proficiency (reading, math, science). We then looked at achievement gap, and we then looked at learning gains,” Miller said.
While the report shows the charter students generally perform better, it doesn’t offer any indication why.
“We just do the comparisons. We don’t try to identify why or how it’s happening. We’re just reporting the actual results,” Miller said.
Without knowing the kind of methodology used, Miller can’t explain why the state’s findings are so different from Dr. Smith’s research.
Miller thinks parents shouldn’t be afraid to give charters a chance.
”We’ve got some phenomenal charter schools across the state that are providing parents with the opportunity to send their kids to a high quality school that meets the needs of their child,” Miller said.