Florida data shows charter schools outperform traditional schools on FCAT
Every year by law the Florida Department of Education releases a report comparing the academic performance of charter and traditional schools, as assessed by the FCAT and end-of-course exams.
Just like last year's report, the dozens of charts and graphs show better outcomes in 2011-12 for the charter schools. The figures indicate that charter schools generally have lower gaps in achievement among demographic groups, and higher percentages of students achieving passing marks on the exams and making learning gains, even when broken into subgroups. Some of the differences are small, but others are significant.
It must be noted, of course, that charter schools serve about 184,000 children in 359 graded sites, compared to nearly 2.6 million students in just more than 2,700 graded traditional schools. Among those, charter schools had a higher percentage of A-rated schools (54 percent to 47 percent), but also a higher percentage of F-rated schools (5 percent to 1 percent).
Charter school proponents certainly will use the data to tout the value of the choice option, pointing to the scores, while detractors are likely to point to the grades to question the effort to spend money on charters. Many observers will say that the best way to judge a charter school, though, is to view it individually and not as part of a larger whole. Some are good and some are bad, just like traditional public and private schools. Charter schools remain a flash point in the state, though, particularly as lawmakers again press ahead with parent trigger legislation that would allow parents to petition to convert failing schools into charters.