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National and Large City NAEP Results: Neighborhood Schools 23, Charters 4

With increased attention and focus given by President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betty Devos to charter schools as an alternative to neighborhood public schools, it is crucial to analyze whether or not students who attend charter schools actually display better education performance results than public school students. While standardized test measures are not the most complete or ideal to analyze student outcomes, they can play an important factor in analyzing whether or not charter schools do truly deliver better performance for students.

This post utilizes data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), first administered in 1969, is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation’s students know and can do in subjects such as mathematics, reading, science, and writing. Standard administration practices are implemented to provide a common measure of student achievement and is consider “the nation’s report card.” The NAEP is a national assessment of American students conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education.

For this post, The NAEP Data Explorer tool was used to compare student performance results at the national and large city level. Composite scale scores were compared for charter schools vs. non-charter school students at the “large cities” level due to the fact that the majority of charters are located in urban areas. This study considered the publicly available composite reading, mathematic, and science scores for 4th, 8th, and 12th graders over the course of six years (2009-2015). This post provides a school-level type analysis and not a student-level growth analyses due to the fact that the student-level data is not publicly available online (For student level NAEP data comparisons see for example School Sector and Academic Achievement: A Multilevel Analysis of NAEP Mathematics Data). Note: We are aware from recent personal conversations in DC that NAEP will soon release a student-level charter school study.

Results

While one would most likely suspect from the current positive public discourse about charter schools that they would display higher national and large city performance compared non-charter neighborhood schools, this is not actually the case when considering the NAEP data on a school level. Out of the 28 total comparison tests run, charter schools only displayed higher composite score averages than non-charter neighborhood public schools in 4 cases. Only in the cases of 8th grade reading and math in the years 2013 and 2015 did charter schools display higher large city composite score averages than non-charter neighborhood public schools. In the large city comparison for 4th grade reading in the year 2013, charter schools and non-charter neighborhood public schools displayed the same average composite scale scores. In the other 23 cases charter schools displayed lower average composite scores than non-charter neighborhood public schools.

What were the average differences? Overall, the 18 comparisons utilizing national samples non-charter neighborhood public schools displayed composite scores 9.3 points higher on average than charter schools. For the ten comparisons using samples from large cities non-charter neighborhood public schools displayed composite scores 0.3 points higher on average than charter schools. While this is a much smaller average difference than the comparisons using national samples, these results are still important for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. If in fact the relationship between charter school and improved student performance is not being realized, then many of the present conversations concerning the topic of charter schools clearly need to be reframed…

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons (National and Large City)

Mathematics

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons Mathematics

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons Mathematics large city

Reading

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons (National and Large City) reading

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons large city reading.png

Science

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons science national

4th Grade Composite Score Comparisons science large city.png

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons (National and Large City)

Mathematics

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons math national

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons  math large city.png

Reading

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons  reading national.png

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons reading large city

Science

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons science national

8th Grade Composite Score Comparisons science large city.png

12th Grade Composite Score Comparisons (National) 

Mathematics

12th Grade Composite Score Comparisons math national.png

Reading

12th Grade Composite Score Comparisons reading national.png

Science

12th Grade Composite Score Comparisons science national.png

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About Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig (668 Articles)
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

8 Comments on National and Large City NAEP Results: Neighborhood Schools 23, Charters 4

  1. Stephen B Ronan // May 19, 2017 at 11:04 am // Reply

    Could you clarify how you defined: “non-charter neighborhood public schools”?
    Did you eliminate from that category schools that select students on the basis of exams, grades, interviews, essays, auditions and the like?
    Any explanation you could provide regarding your methods would be appreciated that allows us to understand which schools are included in each category for the purpose of comparison. A couple of example questions: Is Stuyvesant HS in NYC considered a “neighborhood public school”? Is Up Academy Boston, which is part of the Boston Public School district, but operated by a private nonprofit with a state-granted charter, removed from the BPS school district scores? Thanks.

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    • The categories and schools are chosen by the NAEP. As discussed in the post, the NAEP uses representative samples from each state and locality. I suspect you could make an public information request and get lists of which schools were sampled in each category in a particular year.

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  2. The nail being hit on the head: “charter schools are…presented as a superior alternative to the public school system.” There is little reason for a nation to be so blindly supportive of this invasion into, and breakdown of, our crucial pubic education service save that the invasion and breakdown provided by “choice” has been endlessly and very effectively presented to the public as necessary. Had those supporting PUBLIC schools pushed the wonders of public schooling at the same high level of advertising, we would see the essential resistance to charters/choice which is currently missing.

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  3. Interesting comparisons but that are probably the wrong level of analysis (wait for a more refined study that looks at publica vs charter schools with similar demographics. Charter schools concentrated in higher need, higher poverty areas and it’s against school like these that the comparisons would be most valid. Note that the senior student comparison is totally unfair in this respect glaringly so.

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  1. Cloaking Inequity: What NAEP Reveals About Charter Schools Vs. Public schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

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