Selected readings on US charter schools
South Philadelphia High School scored 36.5 on a 100-point scale on the new statewide school assessments. Just west on Point Breeze Avenue, the Preparatory Charter School of Mathematics, Science, Technology and Careers got a score of 70.6.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education released the complete list of School Performance Profile scores last week. Public schools across 500 districts are graded every fall based on multiple indicators of achievement, including standardized test results, academic growth and promotion rate.
This year, the average score for traditional public schools statewide is 77.1; for charter schools it’s 65.7.
But those statewide averages are misleading.
“If you really want to know what’s going on, you need to look at the same demographic,” said Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
The state has about 160 brick-and-mortar charter schools, and more than half of them are in Philadelphia. In that city, charter schools outperform their district counterparts — the average score for charter schools is 66.9; 57.5 for district schools.
In addition to satisfying the requirements of Pennsylvania’s federal No Child Left Behind waiver, the new performance profile is part of the state’s educator evaluation system, implemented in July.
“The majority of public schools across the commonwealth are doing well and preparing their students to be successful adults,” acting state Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said in a Dec. 11 statement.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association said the statewide averages show “the need for all schools to be held to the same financial and academic accountability requirements as their traditional public school counterparts, especially as the General Assembly discusses the need for charter school reform.”
But in Philadelphia, it’s clear–charter schools are having a positive impact.
The comparison of South Philadelphia High School and Prep Charter is a good example.
With about 600 students each, both schools serve a population that is more than 60 percent economically disadvantaged. Both schools employ teachers with an average of more than nine years’ experience. The charter school has a 99.3 percent graduation rate. The district school graduates 36 percent of its students.
“We have practices and programs in place that work,” said Patricia Ann Sack, principal of Prep Charter. “We’ve increased our dedication to standards.”
Prep Charter operates 5 1/2 days a week with labs and other activities on Saturdays. They also offers dual enrollment for seniors at a community college.
“It’s a joint effort,” said Sack. “We have parents wanting their kids to be successful, amazing faculty and students who believe they can do well.”
Source: Watchdog.com – by Maura Pennington
View more articles on Pennsylvania charter schools