Florida charter schools (proficiency levels not much higher)

Florida legislators gathered last week to watch Waiting for Superman, a documentary that advances two solutions for the problems with America’s education system: school choice and accountability for teachers. It also emphasizes the role charter schools can play in the educational debate.

But new Florida data shows that students at charter schools are not significantly more proficient at reading, math and science than those at traditional public schools…

The report highlights the increase in the number of charter schools with an A grade from 2002 through 2009, and states that “charter school students outperformed traditional public school students” in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (aka the FCAT).

But a closer look at the results shows the proficiency percentages for both charter and traditional public schools were similar:

In reading proficiency at the elementary level, 76 percent of charter school students were proficient, while 73 percent of public school students were. At the middle school level, charter school students had 69 percent proficiency, compared to 63 percent for public school students. At the high school level, charter school students had 44 percent proficiency. Public school students had 43 percent.

In math proficiency, at the elementary level, charter students stood at 73 percent and public school students were at 72 percent. The middle school level shows 65 percent for charter school students versus 62 percent for public school students…

The data makes clear the need to look carefully at the average percentage of students meeting high standards in reading, math and science in each school district to determine whether charter schools offer parents a better choice to solve the problems facing education in Florida…

There are also for-profit education management companies such as Charter Schools USA, which is based in Fort Lauderdale and manages 18 charter schools in Florida. The company’s website says Charter Schools USA is
one of the largest providers of charter school management services in the nation. We successfully manage private and municipal charters for grades pre-K through 12. Charter Schools USA assists corporations, government entities, developers or nonprofit agencies with all phases of charter school design, planning, development, financing, construction, operations and curricula.

Jonathan Hage — the current chairman, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA — is a member of Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s education transition team. Hage served as director of research for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, a strong advocate for school choice. He has also worked for George H.W. Bush and was a member of Charlie Crist’s education transition team.

On its website, Charter Schools USA calls for readers to actively lobby the legislature to strengthen educational options.

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