Charters’ clout grows as top performer to disadvantaged

Charters’ clout grows as top performer to disadvantaged

(Calif.) Half of the top-performing schools serving low-income students in California are charters, according to a new analysis of scores from this year’s Common Core-aligned assessments.

In a brief report that underscores large achievement gaps between student subgroups on the state’s new standardized tests, the non-profit Education Trust-West study revealed that on lists of the top 10 highest performing schools in English language arts and mathematics, charters equaled or outnumbered traditional public schools even though charters account for only about nine percent of the total number of schools statewide.

Seven charters were among the top 10 schools based on eighth-grade student math scores while charters matched traditional schools at five for both third grade and 11th grade English language arts performance.

“It is crucial that California celebrates and learns from the schools that are yielding the strongest results for those students with the greatest needs,” Myrna Castrejon, acting CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said in a statement. “Clearly charters are fulfilling their mission of helping historically under-served students get the education they deserve.”

The data comes as charter schools – despite making great strides in the 25 years since Gov. Pete Wilson signed legislation authorizing them – still struggle to prove their worth in the broader educational community.

An advocate for academic equity, The Education Trust-West presented its analysis of the first-year California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress results to highlight the achievement gaps that exist between student subgroups.

Just 44 percent of all California students met or exceeded standards in English language arts while only 34 percent hit one of those two benchmarks in math.

But large gaps exist between Black, Latino, low-income and English-learner students and their White, Asian and affluent peers, the educational justice group reported. For example, in both math and English language arts, about 70 percent of Asian students met or exceeded standards, dwarfing the scores of African American students, 28 percent of whom met or exceeded ELA standards and 16 percent of whom hit those targets for math.

While acknowledging that the new assessments, aligned with new, more demanding standards, should not be compared to previous years, the analysts said this year’s CAASPP results “serve as a valuable baseline from which to measure future growth.” This year’s scores also, “reveal that too few students are on track to graduate with the skills they need for college and career,” they wrote.

Education Trust-West analyzed data from schools where at least 60 percent of the students qualify as low-income in order to determine the top 10 performers by subject matter and grade.

At the top of the list for schools finding success in English language arts instruction was America’s Finest Charter in San Diego, where 77 percent of third graders – among a school population that is 95 percent low-income – met or exceeded the standards on statewide tests. American Indian Public Charter in Alameda, with an 81 percent low-income student population, was the top-performing school in math with 75 percent of its eighth-graders meeting or exceeding expectations.

“Schools like these dispel the damaging myth that schools can do very little to help students overcome the barriers of poverty,” report writers noted.