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Charter Schools Post Higher Scores than Traditional Public Schools in Florida

March 6, 2013 - 6:00pm

Students in charter schools across Florida continue to achieve higher marks than their public school counterparts.

A report out Thursday from the Florida Department of Education reveals charter school students achieved better scores in math, science and reading in state testing. Student Achievement in Florida's Charter Schools: A Comparison of the Performance of Charter School Students with Traditional Public School Students was compiled from an analysis of charter school students Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) and algebra end-of-course exams from the 2011-12 school year as compared to public school students scores statewide. More than 3 million test scores were taken into account, then comparisons were made along three standards: proficiency, achievement gaps and learning gains.

"We can all agree that great schools are the key to strong communities," said Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett. "That's why it's so encouraging to see Florida's commitment to high-quality charter schools paying off. Thank you to our educators for their hard work to better prepare Florida's students."

While still a part of the public-school system and held accountable to state standards, charter schools are independent, allowing them the flexibility to provide expanded-learning opportunities. Floridas charter schools have grown from the first five in 1996 to 518 last year, with an enrollment of 7 percent of Floridas public school students.

The charter school movement in Florida began as an avenue to improve student learning, increase parental choice, influence the traditional public school system, and foster innovative instructional practices, according to the report.

In terms of FCAT reading scores higher than a level 3, elementary charter school students achieved the benchmark at a 65.2 percent rate compared to 60.3 percent at traditional public schools. Charter middle school students achieved the level at a 64 percent rate versus 57.3 percent at traditional public schools.And, in the high school age group, it was 58.5 percent for charters compared to 52.4 percent for public schools.

An analysis of reading scores within the ethnic subset showed that in each school-age group, Hispanics' performance in charter school was more pronounced. At the elementary level, 9 percent more Hispanic charter school students scored above a 3 than in traditional public schools, greater than 11 percent more in middle school and nearly 10 percent more in high school.

In math, elementary school charters just edged out public schools, but 6.5 percent more middle school charter students scored at the proficiency level than their counterparts.

Similarly, in science, the two school types achieve nearly equal scores at the elementary level, but charter middle-schoolers upped public schools by 5.1 percent.

Anne Smith writes special to Sunshine State News.

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