Putting Education Reform To The Test

Consider Poverty, Minority Status: Little Difference Between Charters, Non-Charters, Researcher Says

University of Central Florida

Dr. Stanley Smith has more research that shows charter schools don't outperform traditional schools.

The finance professor who found Florida charter schools are not on a par with traditional schools is back with more research.

Dr. Stanley Smith with the University of Central Florida analyzed the high school grades that were released last month.

Like last time, he looked at the effect of poverty and minority status on a school’s grade.

Smith examined 491 high schools. 46 of them are charter schools.

He says that at first glance, the average scores suggest charters are the stronger performers.

“Without any adjustments for poverty or minority status, it appears that the charter high schools perform better by a statistically significant difference of 4.37 percent,” Smith said.

But he says this is misleading because charter schools serve a higher percentage of minority students and a lower percentage of students in poverty.

Smith says that if you look at minorities alone without any income adjustment, they have a negative effect on scores.  But he argues that most or all of that negative effect by minorities is really an income effect and when you control for income levels in schools, minorities actually improve school scores.

“When the income level and minority status is controlled, the difference between charters and non-charters decreases from 4.37 to 0.43 percent, which is not a statistically significant difference,” Smith said.

“These adjusted results indicate that high school charters perform as well, but not significantly different, as high school non-charters,” Smith said.

He says the change in results means the difference between the school grades of charters and non-charters “should not be considered valid in Florida if income level and minority status are not both controlled.”

Results from an earlier study by Smith found that traditional elementary schools outperform charters when minorities and income levels are considered. (A report by the Florida Department of Education had very different results. You can read it here.)

When he analyzed elementary school grades, Smith said the adjusted results show that elementary charters do not perform as well as non-charters.

Why the difference in results between elementary and high schools?

Smith found that poverty seems to be more prevalent in elementary schools than high schools, perhaps because elementary schools have smaller student populations.


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