Authorizer type & charter structure don't seem to correlate to quality

Last week we kicked off our series of achievement analyses, an annual look at how students in Ohio's Big 8 urban districts and charters are performing. Today, with the help of our friends at Public Impact, we bring you two new charts that plot performance and growth among:

  • Charter schools by type of authorizer (Ohio law allows universities, non-profits like the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, school districts, and educational service centers to authorize schools); and
  • Charter schools by school structure ? namely, ?start-ups? and ?conversion? schools ? those that convert from a traditional public school into a charter.

Chart 1 compares charter schools based on their authorizer type.? Few charters overall fall into the upper-right section denoting high achievement and growth, but district-, ESC- and non-profit-authorized schools all made it into the category. In 2010-11, non-profits oversaw the most charter schools in the state (168), followed by ESCs (89), and districts (65). (A university serves as an authorizer for only one school in Ohio.)

Widening the field a bit and looking at charters that met or exceeded growth expectations and earned a PI score of 80 or above, we begin to see some distinctions by authorizer type.? A greater percentage of district-authorized schools (56 percent) fall into this group, while only 35 percent of ESC-authorized schools and 39 percent of non-profits did so.? There are many more non-profit and ESC authorized schools (109 and 46, respectively) than district-authorized (only 18), however, so it may be difficult to draw firm conclusions from this edge in performance by district-authorized charters.? Average PI scores by authorizer type also point to stronger performance from district-authorized charters.? Charters authorized by districts had an average PI score of 81.9 compared to 79.3 for ESC-authorized charters and 78.8 among those chartered by non-profits.

Chart 1: Charter Schools by Authorizer Type, Performance Index and Growth in Reading and Math, 2010-11

Source: Ohio's interactive local report card

Note, each square represents a charter elementary and middle school (high schools do not receive a value-added score in Ohio). The vertical placement of each square corresponds with a school's achievement, as measured by Performance Index Score (which ranges from 0-120).? The higher a square, the higher the achievement of that school. The horizontal location of each square represents a school's value-added category only (that is, a square on the left side of a box does not necessarily have lower value-added than one on the right; they are both in the same value added category). The upper-right section of the matrix is the ideal: high achievement and high growth.

Chart 2 looks at charter schools by structure. Most charter schools in Ohio open as new schools, often referred to as ?start-ups.? However, sometimes a district school will apply for a charter and convert to a charter school. (Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has noted that the district might consider more charter conversations as a school improvement strategy, and charter conversion is a turnaround option in recently passed state law.) Statewide, 270 charters were start-ups in 2010-11, while 53 were conversions. The chart below only shows data for conversion schools with performance and growth data (only 10 schools statewide). ?

Chart 2: Charter Schools by Original School Structure, Performance Index and Growth in Reading and Math, 2010-11

Source: Ohio's interactive local report card

As you can see, no conversion schools made it into the top-right section of high growth and high achievement, and none earned a PI score above 100.? Yet the vast majority of charters?80 percent of conversions and 85 percent of start-ups?met or exceeded growth standards. ?(Terry wrote last week about value-added trends in Ohio ? far more schools met growth standards this year after a change to the calculation.) The average PI score for the 10 conversion charters was 84.2, while start ups earned an average PI score of 79.1.

Perhaps the most notable conclusion to draw from these graphs is that authorizer and structure type doesn't matter much when it comes to charter school quality. There are high- and low-performing schools among all authorizer types, and charter conversions and start-ups have an average score that's only a few points apart.

A more interesting snapshot of achievement by authorizer will come later this week, so stay tuned. We'll look at the percent of kids enrolled in schools authorized by the biggest authorizers (those with five schools or more, including Fordham) and examine performance, growth, and ratings (A-F).

*Analyses by Dana Brinson, Daniela Doyle, and Tom Koester

Jamie Davies O'Leary

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