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According to a New Department of Education Study, Charter Schools Outperform Traditional Public Shows

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This article originally appeared in, and is copyrighted by, POLITICO.

By Jessica Bakeman
April 17, 2017

Florida’s charter school students performed better on state exams and made greater learning gains than their peers in traditional public schools in 2015-16, and racial achievement gaps were smaller in charter schools, according to a new state report.

The Department of Education study, required by law to be released annually, found that charter schools outperformed their traditional public school peers on state exams in 65 out of 77 comparisons. Charter school students learned more from one year to the next in 82 of 96 comparisons that focused on learning gains.

Also, in 20 out of 22 comparisons, charters had smaller achievement gaps in math, English and social studies between white students and their black and Hispanic peers.

Only students who attended either a charter school or a traditional public school for the entire school year were included in the analysis. The study looked at 4.2 million test scores from 2015-16.

In 2015-16, public school students enrolled more than 2.5 million students, while about 271,000 attended charters.

Traditional public schools enrolled higher percentages of white and black students than charters, while charter schools served a significantly higher percentage of Hispanic students than traditional public schools.

While 62 percent of public school students in Florida qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, that share was only 49 percent for charters. In traditional public schools, 10 percent of students were non-native English speakers and 14 percent had disabilities. At charter schools, about 9 percent were ELLs and 9 percent were disabled.

A higher percentage of charter schools earn A and B ratings, but also a higher proportion earn F ratings than traditional public schools. In 2015-16, 55 percent of charters earned As and Bs, compared to 44 percent of public schools. But 6 percent of charters were failing, while that number was 3 percent for traditional public schools.

This year’s report was released as the Legislature debates a variety of policy changes and financial incentives to boost the charter school sector, including by attracting charters to open in communities where traditional public schools are failing.

Read the report here.