The California Charter School Association (CCSA) released today its second annual Portrait of the Movement: How Charters are Transforming California Education report, detailing academic performance of California’s charter schools. The report finds that low-income students continue to be well-served by charters; and confirms that charters are having a positive impact on delivering high student achievement.

Charters in 2011 are more likely to out perform and under perform their expected performance levels, displaying a “U-shaped” distribution of performance. Yet despite this picture, twice as many students are served in the top 10th percentile of performance. Low-income students in charter schools are five times more likely to perform better than students in traditional, public schools.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Charters that serve low-income students exceeded their prediction at high rates relative to the traditional system; students at charters serving low-income populations are five times more likely than their non-charter counterparts to be served by a school in the top 5th percentile.
  • The impact of family income on charter schools’ API performance was nearly four times less than the impact of family income on non-charters’ performance.
  • High performing schools are replicating. Charters that were part of an organization that opened new schools in 2011 were highly concentrated at the top end of the statewide distribution.
  • Charters operated by a Charter Management Organization (CMO) were highly concentrated in the top 10th percentile.
  • Young and mature schools have similar performance distributions overall; however this pattern varies by the management model of the school. By the time they reach five years old, CMO and network schools are very likely to far exceed their prediction and are not likely to under-perform, while freestanding schools are more likely to remain under-performing as they age.
  • Both classroom-based and non-classroom-based charter schools were represented across the performance distribution. However, classroom-based charters were more skewed towards the top end of the statewide distribution.
  • Charter patterns vary by region. For example, charters in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) are very concentrated at the top end of the statewide distribution. Forty-eight percent (48%) of OUSD charters were in the top 10th percentile compared to 8% of OUSD non-charters, which are more concentrated in the bottom 10th percentile.

While the overall findings give reason for great optimism, some of the statistics heed concern. CCSA is working to ensure that all schools are delivering appropriate levels of accountability and performance. CCSA seeks to transform the metrics found in Portrait of the Movement into accountability measurements to improve accountability and performance over time.

The CCSA report compares trending performance across all schools in the state to provide an accurate picture of how the charter schools are measuring up to overall performance levels in the state. The Similar Students Measure (SSM), created by the CCSA research team in conjunction with external experts in 2010, compares the performance of charter schools to non-charter schools statewide.

View Portrait of the Movement: How Charters are Transforming California Education to read the report, view the SSM map, school report cards, and performance statistic by region.

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