For the past five years, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has been analyzing the academic performance of schools in our hometown of Dayton and in other Ohio cities. We continued that analysis this year, taking a close look at the local report card data released by the Ohio Department of Education yesterday (see here).

What the data trends show us, not surprisingly but painful nonetheless, is that schools in the state's largest cities continue to struggle mightily to help students meet basic academic standards and are nowhere close to achieving the goals set by the state of Ohio or by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

This year, for the first time, Ohio's school report cards also include "value-added"-a measure of how much progress a school's students made in reading and math over the course of one year compared to how much the state would expect them to gain. This indicator helps to show us which schools are making the most significant gains with their students over time. In 2007-08, there were a few-too few-urban schools (charter and district) that met achievement goals for their students while also showing growth beyond expectations for the year. There were also a number of schools, district and charter, that made encouraging gains with their students last year but failed to meet the state's achievement goals.

But, most urban schools (charter and district alike) still are struggling not only to help students meet state expectations and standards, but also to help close the achievement gap by accelerating learning.

Most frustrating for supporters of charter schools is that their academic performance is, overall, only equal or even inferior to the district schools with which they compete. This, however, varies widely from community to community. In Dayton, for example, charter school students not only outperform the Dayton Public Schools (DPS) on traditional measures of student achievement (47 percent of DPS students attended a school rated academic emergency while 28 percent of charter students were in an "F" rated school), but also on the value-added indicator (68 percent of Dayton charter students met or exceeded overall state growth expectations while only 37 percent of DPS students did).

In Columbus, where overall student achievement is dramatically better than in Dayton, the Columbus City Schools (CCS) significantly outperformed the local charters. In 2007-08, just 12 percent of students in CCS schools attended a school rated academic emergency, while 53 percent of Columbus area charter students attended an "F" rated school. Charter students in Columbus made less growth than their district peers, too, with 65 percent of charter students failing to meet or exceed growth targets. In contrast, 60 percent of Columbus City Schools' students met or exceeded expected academic growth.

Other key findings from this year's analysis include:

  • The new value-added measure, which tracks student academic growth, shows that urban charter schools were more likely to achieve Above Expected Growth (26.8 percent) than were non-charter Ohio 8 schools (21.8 percent). 
  • Ohio 8 non-charter public schools were more likely to achieve Below Expected Growth (54.0 percent vs. 45.5 percent).
  • Across the eight largest urban districts, overall performance levels across all grades were similar. Just fewer than 6 in 10 of students in both types of schools were proficient in reading in 2007-08. In math, less than half of students were proficient in both sectors.
  • In both subjects, urban schools-charter and non-charter-continued to fall substantially below the state goal of 75 percent of students being proficient.
  • Very few urban schools achieved both Above Expected Growth and reached the top tier on the state's Performance Index score (scoring 100 or above), with just 1.6 percent of schools in both sectors falling into that desired category.
  • Urban charter high school students were somewhat more likely (69 percent versus 63 percent) to be proficient in math, but much less likely (54 percent versus 76 percent) to make the mark in reading than their non-charter peers.
  • The percentage of non-charter urban schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the federally mandated standard of performance, fell in 2007-08, while the percentage of urban charter schools making AYP stayed steady. Similar percentages-less than a third of both charter and non-charter urban schools-made AYP.
  • In the state rating system, only 19 percent of urban non-charter schools were rated Excellent or Effective, compared with just 12 percent or urban charter schools. Almost half of Ohio 8 district schools were in the Academic Emergency or Academic Watch categories, compared with over 64 percent of urban charter schools. In both cases, the percentage of schools in these troubled categories rose significantly from 2006-07 levels.

 See our full analyses online:

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