Analysis

A Closer Look at Ohio’s Best Charter Schools

For all the criticism of the performance of Ohio’s charter school sector, there are a few charter schools that perform exceptionally well. Using data from http://knowyourcharter.com, we examined what Ohio’s best charter schools look like. We found that, while there are a few high-performing schools, even the highest performing charters struggle on performance indicators when compared with their highest-scoring traditional school district counterparts. Ohio’s charter schools receive money and children from all Ohio’s school districts, with a little less than half of all their revenue coming from districts outside Ohio’s Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown).

What is a high-performing charter school?

For analytical purposes, we identify a charter school as high performing if it meets either of the following criteria:

  1. Performance Index Score above the state district average of 99.1 (only 16 charters met this)
  2. It had an overall student growth grade on the Report Card of A or B.

That produces a list of 111 charter schools – about 30 percent of the nearly 400 charter schools currently being funded by the State. Only five met both criteria. Meanwhile, 70% of Ohio’s traditional public districts meet both criteria, while 238 meet both.

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How do they compare?

While the highest-performing charters receive more As, Bs and Cs than Ds and Fs, their performance remains behind that of their high-performing school district counterparts. On all report card measures, the highest-performing charters receive a substantially higher percentage of Fs than districts, with the F grade being the largest percentage of any grade.

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Even when compared to the Big 8 urban districts, it’s a mixed bag for Ohio’s best charter schools.  These charters outshine urban districts on report card measures, receiving fewer Fs and more As and Bs than their urban counterparts.[1] However, the average Performance Index score at these 111 high-performing charter schools is 70.77 – about 10 points below the average urban district score of 80.73.

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Not every student at these high-performing charter schools comes from the Big 8 urban districts. In fact, of those 111 charter schools, 44 schools – or 39% — get fewer than half of their students from the urban districts.

Looking at the high-performing charters that receive 95% or more of their children from the Big 8 urban districts, they perform better than the urban districts on both the Performance Index Score and report card ratings.

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However, they don’t do as well as charters that take less than 95% of their children from the Big 8.

Bottom Line

What these data indicate is that while Ohio’s best charter schools don’t outperform Ohio’s best traditional school districts, theydoperform better than Ohio’s biggest urban districts overall, even when that’s where most of their enrolled students come from.

In other words, charters can offer an opportunity to kids in some of the worst school districts with the highest levels of economic disadvantages. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that only $72 million – or 9% – of the $823 million the state spent on charter schools in the 2012-2013 school year went to charters that outperform the districts the overwhelming majority of their kids left behind.

Overall, the high performing charter schools we looked at receive just 25% of the state’s total funding for charter schools. If the purpose of funding charter schools is to provide a substantially better alternative to traditional public schools, only a quarter of money spent is accomplishing that today.

[1] This comparison looks at all Big 8 urban buildings – high and low performing – but only the best performing charters. Overall, charters still perform worse than the Big 8.