The U.S. Department of Education released the 2013 math and reading results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) last week. The assessments were administered to a nationally representative sample of 376,000 fourth and 341,000 eighth graders from all fifty states. (Check out a national perspective on the NAEP data.)

Here in Ohio, math and reading results for public school students in both grades were flat compared to 2011. Meanwhile, fewer than 50 percent of Ohio’s fourth and eighth graders met NAEP’s proficiency standard. The proficiency rates for Buckeye State students were as follows: 48 percent in fourth-grade math; 37 percent in fourth-grade reading; 41 percent in eighth-grade math; and 39 percent in eighth-grade reading. These underwhelming statistics aside, the state continued to post scores that surpassed the national average.

One can also slice the 2013 NAEP data in many ways—by racial group, by poverty status, by special education status, and more. One can even compare charter to non-charter students, which I do in the analysis below.

The figures below display the charter versus non-charter comparison of students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL), the most utilized poverty metric available. This provides a fair—though still imperfect—comparison of similar students, since Ohio’s charters enroll a relatively high number of impoverished students.

The charts show the average scaled score estimates (scale is from zero to 500) for the two groups, along with the standard errors displayed as vertical lines. The standard error, in parentheses, is the measure of uncertainty around the score estimates—recall that NAEP is a sample. Note also the higher standard errors for charters, likely due to the smaller sample size.

The results from this snapshot in time are not favorable to charter schools. In all four grade-subject combinations, charter school NAEP scores fall short of the non-charter scores. And in all cases, I would consider the margin fairly wide—more so in fourth than eighth grade. In fourth-grade reading, for example, non-charter students’ average score was 211, while charter students’ average score was 191, a twenty-point difference.

The difference, however, narrows in the eighth grade. Charter school scores are only five points lower in reading and six in math. The standard-error bars nearly overlap in eighth grade, but not quite—if the standard-error bars had overlapped, the difference in scores would not have been meaningful.

State data and now data from the nation’s best barometer of achievement depict the bleak performance of Ohio’s charter schools in the aggregate. Certainly, there are great charter schools in Ohio, and these schools are here to stay. Nevertheless, this state’s charter school program, as a whole, needs a major repair—starting with getting tough on charter school authorizing.

Charters fall well short in fourth grade

Ohio charter versus non-charter, FRPL students, 2013 NAEP



Charters fall short (but less so) in eighth grade

Ohio charter versus non-charter, FRPL students, 2013 NAEP

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