In acknowledgement of National School Choice Week, the following evaluates North Carolina’s public charter school option. What are public charter schools? What is their academic record? Who are their students?
Information compiled directly from North Carolina Department of Public Instruction test data shows that the state End-of-Grade (EOG) test performance average of public charter students is higher than that of traditional public students, and that in 10 of 12 demographic subgroups— including minorities, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities— students at public charter schools academically outperform students at traditional public schools on EOG tests.
So, what are public charter schools? Public charters schools are entirely tuition-free and accept all students regardless of address, income, or ability. Unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools have the freedom to select their own curriculum or educational focus instead of the state-mandated curriculum, which in North Carolina, is Common Core. Many public charter schools offer unique programs such as STEM, Montessori, Classical, Immersion, etc. Also unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools do not limit their enrollment to an attendance zone. This means that any student may enroll in a local public charter school regardless of address. Approximately 82,000 NC students are enrolled in public charter schools this year. 100% of public charter school enrollment is the result of voluntary parent choice.
Why are NC parents choosing charter schools? A recent comparison of NC EOG test performance averages suggests academic success. While public charter schools and traditional public schools do not have to use the same curricula, they do have to take the same EOG tests. A study published this week by the NC Alliance of Public Charter Schools used data from the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) to demonstrate that the 2014-2015 state average EOG performance by NC’s public charter students is 66.7%. The state average EOG performance by NC’s traditional public students is 56.1%
A January 2016 report by NCDPI demonstrates that in four of six racial categories, public charter schools serve a higher percentage of these students than do traditional public schools. Further, the following data will present NC student performance averages in all demographic categories for both public charter schools and traditional public schools.
In 10 out of 12 demographic subgroups— including minorities, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities— students at public charter schools academically outperform students at traditional public schools on EOG tests.
Among other things, the data reveal that the EOG performance average of Hispanic students in public charter schools is 58% compared to 45% in traditional public schools. For black students, the charter average is 47% compared to the traditional public school average of 37%. The charter average for students with disabilities is 31% compared to the traditional public school average of 20%. Economically disadvantaged students also performed better in public charter schools, at a rate of 50% compared to 41% in traditional public schools. The performance average comparisons for each of the 12 demographic subgroups are provided in the table below.
So, are charter schools a good option for NC students? NCDPI testing data confirm, “Yes!” In addition to public charter schools outperforming traditional public schools on EOG tests by nearly ten percentage points, the data presented below demonstrate that 10 of 12 student groups have more academic success at public charter schools than do their peers at traditional public schools.
The NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools is an educational advocacy organization comprised of charter school administrators, directors, and former public school officials as well as other professionals dedicated to improving education in North Carolina. The mission of the Alliance is to be a strong voice that speaks transparently for the good of all public charter schools and their students.
Data used in these calculations is publicly available at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/reporting/ in the first summary report at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/accountability/reporting/acctsumm15.xlsx
The Alliance gratefully acknowledges Sawyer Batten of The Roger Bacon Academy (RBA) for her suggestion to calculate the performance percentage of public charter school students as a component of the total state performance percentage and to Baker Mitchell, Founder of RBA, for extracting and displaying these results. Both individuals currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Alliance.