Local charter schools again score close to urban public schools

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Deputy superintendent Dave Taylor says DECA is teaching students to think differently.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

DECA has best performance index score of county charters

Local charter schools scored slightly higher than Dayton Public Schools in achievement, but slightly lower in progress and K-3 Literacy Improvement, continuing a trend that finds the two groups of schools fairly comparable by state report card metrics.

Like district schools, Montgomery County charters saw their scores drop on this year’s tougher state report card, and grades were bad. Four charters earned D’s in achievement, and the other 17 received F’s. The results were more mixed in student progress, with roughly equal numbers of schools getting grades of A through F.

“The trend has been that charters are performing roughly very similar to urban district schools, especially when you’re looking at brick-and-mortar schools,” said Aaron Churchill, Ohio research director for the Fordham Institute, a charter school sponsor.

“Overall it’s fairly similar, but there’s a lot of variation in individual schools, so it’s important to look at school-level data.”

The report card generally shows the same charters near the top of the local list as in past years, just with lower grades because the state raised standards. Dayton Early College Academy posted the highest performance index, at 83.56. The school earned A’s in student progress and graduation rate, but D’s and F’s in the other components.

“When you see mostly D’s and F’s, here and in suburban districts and other city districts, it’s deflating,” said DECA Deputy Superintendent Dave Taylor. “We hope that people have the patience to understand that the goal posts moved. … This is a bigger boulder we’re pushing up the hill.

“We’re asking a lot more of our kids and their families. That will require patience and a plan.”

Taylor said he’s very proud of the hard work by students and teachers at DECA, pointing out that the school, which draws exclusively from Dayton, beat the state average on every tested area in the high school grades.

The other charters to avoid F’s in Achievement were the DECA Prep elementary school, plus Pathway School and Emerson Academy, two charters run by National Heritage Academies. Pathway (C) and Emerson (B) also got solid grades in student growth, but like most schools, got F’s in gap closing and K-3 literacy improvement.

Jennifer Hoff, spokeswoman for NHA Schools, pointed out that the scores came from a new test, saying the schools will analyze the data to figure out how to adjust how they serve students.

“While no one is satisfied with these results, we also recognize this is just one assessment,” Hoff said. “Our principals are strong educators who are committed to making a difference in the lives of our students.”

City Day Community School had the lowest performance index among local charter schools, at 42.24, and also received an F in student progress. City Day officials did not return a call seeking comment.

Dayton Leadership Academy, recognized for strong student growth last year, received F’s on this report card, but the state said those grades were “subject to change because of a local reporting error.” Executive Director T.J. Wallace said Grade 3-5 results did not get submitted correctly to ODE.

Charters vs. districts

Because brick-and-mortar charter schools can only open in “challenged school districts” — Dayton, Trotwood-Madison and Jefferson Twp. locally — this newspaper generally compares local charter results to the results in those districts. Most of the 23 local charters draw more than 92 percent of their enrollment from those districts. The exceptions are Pathway, Miami Valley Academies and the two Summit charters.

In performance index, the charters were better. Dayton Early College Academy scored higher (83.56) than the top school in the three districts (Stivers at 79.07). The lowest-scoring charter, CityDay, scored higher than four Dayton Public Schools.

The median performance index for the 21 charter schools (55.85) was higher than the median for the 33 graded schools in those districts (51.25).

In the progress category, which measures student growth year-over-year, the districts were better. More than half of district schools scored A’s or B’s, led by Dayton Public Schools, with the median grade a B. The spread was more even in the charters, with the median grade a C.

K-3 Literacy improvement grades were very low across the state, and that held true for local schools. Three-fourths of Montgomery County charters got F’s, with only Dayton Smart Elementary earning a B. Half of district schools got F’s, with Jefferson’s Blairwood Elementary earning an A.

Those district and charter schools all draw from high-poverty areas. The Ohio School Boards Association on Wednesday released its annual report showing a clear, continuing correlation between poverty and low test scores.

The report shows that school districts with a Performance Index score of less than 70 have an average of 82.3 percent economically disadvantaged students, while districts with a PI score of 100 or more average only 9.3 percent of those students.

Online, STEM schools

Unlike brick-and-mortar charter schools, online charters can draw students from anywhere in the state. But the three largest online charters also got mostly D’s and F’s on the state report card.

Ohio Connections Academy was the top scorer of those three, with D’s in Achievement and Progress, plus a B in K-3 Literacy to go with three F’s. Its performance index of 80.33 was between the scores of Fairborn and Piqua schools.

Ohio Virtual Academy was the middle scorer of the three large online schools. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which is currently in a court fight over student attendance reporting, got F’s on all report card components. The state’s largest online school, ECOT’s performance index (53.97) was narrowly lower than the district-wide scores for Dayton and Trotwood.

The Dayton Regional STEM School is neither a charter nor a district school. The school received all A’s and B’s on its report card, and its performance index of 102.26 trailed only Oakwood locally.

DECA’s Taylor said parents may choose a charter school for safety reasons, or family history, or a reference from a friend.

“Don’t assume that these scores are the only reason why people choose to go to a school,” he said.

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