Analysis of Columbus' charter and district schools: With a forecast of PARCC proficiency

On Wednesday this week, the Ohio Department of Education released "preliminary" school district data for 2011-12 that included all major achievement data components for a district. This is the most complete release of 2011-12 school data to date. However, the data remain "preliminary" until the State Auditor completes his investigation of districts and school buildings who are suspected of tampering with student attendance records. When the investigation is complete, ODE will issue official Report Cards for each distirct.

In this post, and in forthcoming posts, we'll take a look at the ODE data for Ohio's three largest districts: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and for Dayton--Fordham's hometown. We assume that the preliminary data (the release of unofficial, unverified data in June, the September release, and the October release) are sufficiently reliable for an analysis of public schools' data. In addition to an analysis of the 2011-12 data, we also provide a forecast of what proficiency rates for school districts will be when Ohio transitions to the Common Core and its aligned assessment, the PARCC exams, for English language arts and math in 2014-15.

In Columbus, good, bad, and worse news can be found in its district and charter schools’ academic results for 2011-12. 

The good news first: As a group, charter school proficiency rates continued their steady climb upwards. Fourth and sixth grade math proficiency rates, for example, gained nearly 10 points compared to the year prior—and this year’s charter proficiency rates a significant improvement over rates from 5 to 10 years ago. Today, it’s fair to say, based on the data, that Columbus’ 14,000 charter students slightly outperform their peers in Columbus City Schools (CCS).

The bad news: Most of Columbus’ students—charter and CCS—still fail to meet the statewide standard for proficiency. In addition, nearly 30,000 (just under 50 percent) of Columbus’ students attended a failing (D or F rated) school building. In contrast, only 3,500 of Columbus’ students attended an A or A+ rated school in 2011-12.

The worse news: When the Common Core arrives in 2014-15, there will likely be a massive fall in the percentage of Columbus’ students (and students in surrounding districts), who can pass the standardized exams. The PARCC exams—tests aligned to the Common Core—will likely be harder and likely have a higher performance standard. Results from these exams will honestly and bluntly report how many students are actually on the pathway toward success in college and career. How many youngsters will pass these more rigorous exams? Not many. Turn to our PARCC projection in section 7 of this report to see for yourself just how far proficiency rates may plummet.

Download: Columbus district and charter schools: Report Card analysis, 2011-12. Plus a forecast of proficiency rates under the Common Core and its aligned assessments

Update (October 24, 2012): There was a correction made to the 2011-12 aggregate charter proficiency rate that affected figure 8.3 and table 8.4. See the corrected version below.

Download: Columbus district and charter schools: Report Card analysis, 2011-12. Plus a forecast of proficiency rates under the Common Core and its aligned assessments (corrected version)

Aaron Churchill
Aaron Churchill is the Ohio Research Director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.