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How Are Atlanta´s Charter Schools Performing?

Drew Charter School ranks highest in APS

Charter schools — which are publicly funded, privately operated, and accept public school students — have gotten a lot of attention in the past several years.  

Two popular, pro-charter documentaries, Waiting for Superman and The Lottery, profiled families who hoped to be accepted to local charter schools. In New York City, the NAACP and the teacher´s union sued to prevent charter schools from sharing buildings with traditional public schools, and last summer, David Brooks used his NYT Column to highlight some of the central issues in the pro-charter and anti-charter debate.

So with all this fuss, how are Atlanta Public Schools´ charters actually faring?  The answer depends on the school.

By their very nature, charter schools are a diverse bunch.  While school districts and states provide curriculums and heavier oversight to traditional public schools, charter schools are free to develop their own approaches.  As you might imagine, some of these approaches work well and others don´t.

Within the Atlanta Public Schools system, ten charter schools operated at the elementary level.  (I considered any school which served grades 3, 4, or 5 to be operating an elementary school even though the KIPP Academies begin in grade 5).  Based on Metro Atlanta 2011 Elementary School Ratings five of the schools received an "A" or a "B," while 5 of the schools received a "C" or a "D."  The full results are presented in the attached table. 

Let´s take acloser look at some individual performances.  Since the state of Georgia has set very low standards for "meeting grade level," the measure is virtually meaningless.  A more informative measure is the percentage of students "exceeding grade level," and that is what I will focus on. 

Charles R. Drew Charter School ("A" - High Performer)

Needs (High): 74% of the school´s students are economically disadvantaged.  95% are Black or Hispanic. 1% are English language learners, and 8% are students with disabilities.

Percent of 5th Graders Exceeding Math Grade Level: 54%

These are impressive results, espescially when you consider the community that the Drew Charter School serves.  Intown Chareter Academy also served a high needs community, but it´s results are not as impressive.

Intown Charter Academy ("D" - Low Performer)

Needs (High):  78% of the school´s students are economically disadvantaged.  96% are Black or Hispanic. 2% are English language learners, and 4% are students with disabilities. 

Percent of 5th Graders Exceeding Math Grade Level: 9%

So, very few of Intown´s students are exceeding grade level.  Now let´s take a look at a charter school which serves a low-needs community.  

Neighborhood Charter School ("C" - Average Performer)

Needs (Low): 13% of the school´s students are economically disadvantaged.  22% are Black or Hispanic.  0% are English language learners, and 9% are students with disabilities.

Percent of 5th Graders Exceeding Math Grade Level: 62%

At first glance, the fact that 62% of students are exceeding grade level seems impressive.  But you have to remember that the needs of students at Neighborhood Charter school are low compared to the state average.  For example, only 13% of students are economically disadvantaged.  As such, it´s really only fair to compare the school to peer traditional schools like Morningside, Springdale Park, and Mary Lin.  Here are the percent of those school´s students exceeding grade level:

Morningside: 91%

Springdale Park: 71%

Mary Lin:75%

I'm certainly not suggesting that Neighborhood Charter School is performing horribly.  But it also doesn't appear that the school is providing a better education than similar traditional public schools. In fact, it is performing slightly worse than its peer schools nearby.   

For more Metro Atlanta school analysis, visit gradingatlanta.tumblr.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

JR Garcia June 07, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Jarod -- Are you familiar with Atlanta's intown neighborhoods and schools? Have you actually visited the schools you mention in your Opinion / Local Voices blog post? You say "But it also doesn't appear that the school is providing a better education than similar traditional public schools. In fact, it is performing slightly worse than its peer schools nearby." WHICH nearby peer schools are you referring to? Are you referring to Parkside, Whitefoord, Toomer, D.H. Stanton, Benteen, Dunbar, Burgess Peterson Academy - all fellow Jackson High cluster elementary schools. I will add that it's very easy to slant your 'results' (almost said desired) by picking and choosing only one year of one subject of standardized testing. I mean, would you choose a school for your children based on the 5th grade Math CRCT score, only? Truly seems short-sided and slanted in the context of factual research, IMO. You go on to say: "So with all this fuss, how are Atlanta Public Schools´ charters actually faring? The answer depends on the school." Guess, the answer depends on the grade and subject chosen to highlight - wouldn't you agree?
Jarod Apperson June 07, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Hi Andrea, I think that is a great suggestion for an analysis. I will try to work on something like that and put it up. I am also going to put up an article tomorrow morning explaining in more detail why I believe it´s important to rely on the "exceeds" measure.
Don't Poke The Wolf June 07, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Jarod, Statistics can be deceiving. What are your thoughts on this one? GDOE CRCT Auditors have reported for 2011 that: Drew - 12.5% of classes have questionable erasure rates or 7 classrooms, among the highest in APS, in the Moderate Concern range of 11%-24%. Mary Lin - 10.3% of classes have questionable erasure rates, in the Minnimal Concern range. Morningside - 4.3% of classes have questionable erasure rates, in the Minimal Concern range. ANCS - 0% OF CLASSES HAVE QUESTIONABLE ERASURE RATES!!!!!!!! What should we deduce from these numbers? Some might say there is a possible integrity issue with the 2011 CRCT results from Drew, Lin and Morningside. The State reports, that a high number of erasures are not evidence of cheating, but a guide for further examination. Hmmmmmm How does this statistic impact your ranking? I would think it would be important since the basis of your ranking is one test score.
Jarod Apperson June 07, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Andrea, I put up the article on meets vs. exceeds. You can check it out here. http://gradingatlanta.tumblr.com/post/24604591589/georgia-setting-sights-too-low Here is the site with all the data files I used in my analysis. Using this, you can play around with the "meets" and "exceeds" metrics with a different formula that you consider more reflective. http://reportcard2011.gaosa.org/(S(i04gxtjluw0nyxyucmy2e155))/k12/cDLS5.aspx?TestType=Comparisons
Jarod Apperson June 11, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I took a more in-depth look at ANCS performance on the 2011 CRCT that some of you might find interesting. This includes the comparison by each grade and subject you were interested in Andrea. http://gradingatlanta.tumblr.com/post/24879827790/neighborhood-charter-school-performance

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