Dear Florida Families, Your Kid’s Probably Better Off in A Charter School

by | Mar 25, 2019

Are you a parent with kids in school? If so, you should know that charter schools in Florida outperform traditional schools in just about everything you can measure.

Each year, our state’s education department is required by law to look at how charter school students perform compared to similar students in traditional schools. They look at a ton of data: How do black students in charters compare to black students in traditional schools in English. What about Hispanic students? Low-income students? Students with disabilities? English language learners? Okay, what about all those groups of students (and more) in Math? Social studies? Science?

They also look at the difference in academic performance (AKA Achievement Gap) between groups like black students and their white peers, or Hispanic students and white students, etc. Finally, they looked at how much students were learning each year.

In just about everything they measured, charter school students came out on top!

Of 77 measurements related to students performing on grade level, charter school students did better in 63 of those comparisons, or 82 percent of the time.

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When it came to the achievement gap, charter schools bested traditional schools in 19 out of the 22 comparisons the department looked at. For example, the gaps between black and white students in math, reading, science and social studies would count as 4 comparisons. Traditional schools did better closing the achievement gap in three of the comparisons. They did slightly better than charter schools in closing the gap between black and white students in high school math and science for example, but not in elementary or middle school for those students in those subjects.

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When they looked at how much schools helped students, and various groups of students catch up or get ahead, charter school students learned more in a year than traditional schools on 88 of the 96 measures they compared.

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Overall, charter schools do a better job of helping students achieve, closing the achievement gaps between groups of students, and helping students grow, academically, more than traditional schools.

Does that mean you should abandon your traditional school as quickly as possible? Not necessarily. These comparisons are comparing all charter schools to all traditional schools. Individual results may vary, as they say. You should really look at the particulars for the schools around you.

For my family, the school we were zoned for wasn’t a good fit. I wasn’t satisfied with the results they were getting for kids. So we applied and were blessed to win the lottery for one of the charter schools we sought out.

There’s something else to consider. While charter schools won in almost every category measured, the margins by which they won range from just one percentage point to about 13 percentage points. That’s still significant but it also shows there’s still a lot of work to be done at both types of schools.

For example, one of the nearly 200 measures they looked at showed that about 54 percent of lower-income charter school kids in elementary school passed their reading test compared to 46.4 percent of the same type of students in traditional schools. 53.9 Percent is definitely better than 46.4 percent, but there are still a ton of students that need help reaching that bar.

If you’re really into charts, there’s a whole slew of them in the Student Achievement in Florida’s Charter Schools report the department put out today.

In a press release, Richard Corcoran, Florida’s chief educator, praised the results and signaled the impact the report may have in current legislative battles:

“There is simply no denying that choice works, particularly for minority and low-income students. These results represent hundreds of thousands of Florida families who were empowered to make the best education decisions for their children and are reaping the benefits. Governor DeSantis has made bold choice-related proposals leading into the 2019 Legislative Session, and this report provides further evidence that they are right for Florida.”

Regardless of the choice you make, it’s clear that charter schools give a lot of families, especially those stuck in low-performing schools, a better alternative than they had available. And ultimately, it’s the state’s job to give as many families access to a great education as possible.


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