Thursday, December 6, 2012

Among low-income schools, traditional public schools show higher achievement scores than charters

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recently released Report Cards for a majority of public and charter schools in the state. Public schools comprise 95% (1,772 schools) of the total data set, charter schools comprise 5% (101) of the total.

The Report Cards represent a compilation of three years of data intended to provide a standard of measure for school, student, and teacher performance. Forward Institute is conducting an extensive study on the effects of Wisconsin 2011 Act 32 on high poverty vs. low poverty school students, to be completed in January 2013.

Forward Institute used the recent Report Cards to examine the correlations between poverty and educational outcome in Wisconsin charter and public schools. The Report Cards are an appropriate data source as they use the same criteria over a three-year period to obtain a percentile score. The Report Cards are also having a significant impact on policymakers as future education policy and assessment,

Wisconsin Report Card Study 2012
documents findings from the Forward Institute’s analysis of the school performance data released through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Report Cards. For the purposes of this study, a charter school is defined by DPI in the Report Card data, indicated as “Y” in the “Charter School indicator” column of the DPI data spreadsheet. These charter schools include instrumentality and non-instrumentality entities. Public schools represent 95% (1,772 schools) of the total data set, charter schools 5% (101) of the total. The data show:

• Higher DPI Report Card scores have a significant correlation with lower economically disadvantaged (ED) enrollment.
• Almost half of the variation from school to school in DPI Report Card scores can be explained by the variation from school to school in level of ED enrollment.
• On average, public schools have outperformed charter schools on DPI Report Card scores.
• Even when adjusting for poverty (e.g. ED enrollment) in the analysis, public schools performed better on the DPI Report Cards than charter schools.
• The aforementioned finding becomes most prominent in schools serving the poorest students.
We urge Wisconsin legislators to work with state educational leadership and citizens to address the significant correlation between economic disadvantage and educational outcome. Based on the Report Card data and this study, it is our recommendation that well-informed public policy should address the following:

• Economic disadvantage should be acknowledged as a significant factor affecting education outcome. Future economic and education policies need to receive equal and collaborative consideration as the highest priority in the state budget. Both have significant impact on each other.

• Any assessment having direct economic consequences for schools or teachers ought to be conducted independent of the current Report Card scoring system. As the study clearly shows, a very significant factor affecting Report Card scores is poverty, something which is outside the control of teachers and schools. Public policy should therefore necessarily address economic justice as part of any serious effort to improve education, and schools today should not be labeled on the basis of factors beyond their control.

• A re-evaluation of charter school performance, standards and accountability needs to be conducted and addressed immediately. It is clear from the results of this study that overall, charter schools are underperforming at the core level of their mission – student excellence and achievement.2

• The data clearly show that public schools are doing a better job offsetting the effects of poverty on education than their charter school counterparts. A concerted effort should be made to ascertain how and why this is the case, replicate that effort in charter schools, and reinforce those standards and methods.

• A significant informational campaign should be engaged to inform the public about the results of this report and encourage participation in the future of education and economics in Wisconsin. Teachers deserve to be restored to their place as legitimate authorities on classroom education policies, as well as public policy addressing the local economic impact on students in classrooms.

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