Local charter school report card grades still low, but improving

Charters in area outpace urban district schools in test scores and progress.

Dayton-area charter schools saw some improvement on the 2018-19 state report card as the overall letter grade rose for eight schools and declined for three.

On the whole, the 19 Dayton-area charter schools’ grades remained low. Those schools’ median overall grade from the Ohio Department of Education was a “D,” and their median performance index on state tests was 49.4 percent.

But as with district schools, there was a wide range of results for the charters, which enroll more than 7,000 local students.

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Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), a charter high school serving low-income black students, maintained its long run of success, with an overall “B” grade, and A’s in student progress, gap closing and graduation rate. DECA’s letter grades were a close match for strong local districts like Kettering and Valley View.

“When you see that we’re outpacing the state average in every tested area, we’re really happy with the high school scores,” DECA Deputy Superintendent Dave Taylor said. “It is more challenging. We serve a clientele that has traditionally underperformed in our state, and it’s exciting when you see kids exceeding those benchmarks. It reinforces to us the fact that it’s something our children can do year after year after year.”

Trotwood Preparatory and Fitness Academy was the other local charter school to earn an overall “B,” as its performance index jumped from 54 to 62 percent in one year. The K-8 elementary school also got A’s for student progress and gap closing.

LAST YEAR: Majority of charter schools’ scores increase

Emerson Academy and the Miami Valley Academies charter schools made the largest improvement in overall grade, both going from “F” to “C.” Emerson, Trotwood Prep & Fitness and Summit Academy Dayton had the largest test score rise, each seeing their performance index go up by at least 7 percentage points.

On the other side, four schools received overall “F” grades – Horizon Science Academy Dayton, Montgomery Preparatory Academy, Summit Academy Xenia and Summit’s Transition High School in Dayton. Summit’s Xenia school was the only local charter to receive F’s in all of its graded components.

Dayton SMART Elementary, which had risen quickly on the past two report cards, dropped from a “C” to a “D” and had the largest performance index decline, at 10 percentage points.

Aaron Churchill, Ohio research director for the Fordham Institute, a charter school sponsor and education research group, said he thinks Ohio’s legislative reforms are starting to bear fruit, as many lower-performing charters have closed, including the high-profile closure of the ECOT online school.

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“Overall performance is starting to improve in charter schools, and you see it in some of the student growth measures,” Churchill said. “The growth measures are critical, especially when you’re looking at high-poverty schools where students are starting at lower achievement levels than their peers.”

This newspaper generally compares local charters’ results to the results of district schools in Dayton, Trotwood and Jefferson Twp., because that’s where nearly all of the brick-and-mortar charter schools are located.

For the fourth year in a row, Dayton-area charter schools’ median performance index (49.4) was higher than the median index for Trotwood, Dayton and Jefferson Twp. district schools.

Putting the 19 charters and 30-plus schools from those districts in comparison shows wide differences between individual schools. The Dayton and Trotwood districts had four of the five highest-scoring school buildings (after DECA, which was No. 1). But DPS also had the seven lowest-scoring buildings.

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Dayton Public Schools officials declined comment on that comparison. More than 6,000 students who live in the DPS geography attend charter schools instead.

And this year, for the first time in at least four years, the local charter schools scored higher than the Dayton-Trotwood-Jefferson group in student progress as well. The median year-over-year progress grade for the 19 charter schools was a very low “B,” while the district school median was a “D.”

Large online schools

After closure of the troubled ECOT school, Ohio’s two largest remaining online schools both got an overall “D” on the state report card. Ohio Connections Academy had a performance index of 60.6 percent, higher than only four local school districts, and a four-year graduation rate of 72.5 percent, lower than all local districts. Ohio Virtual Academy was lower on both of those metrics, with a performance index of 54.5 percent and a graduation rate of 60.9.

STEM school shines

The Dayton Regional STEM school in Kettering, which is not technically a district or charter school, again got an overall “B” on the state report card. The school’s performance index of 84.3 percent trailed only Oakwood, Waynesville and Bellbrook locally. The STEM school got a “D” in student progress, but A’s for gap closing and for its 100 percent graduation rate.

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