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LAUSD independent charters outperform traditional schools on state tests

Craig Clough | August 30, 2016

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For the second year in a row, LA Unified’s independent charter schools outperformed the district’s traditional schools on California’s standardized math and English language arts (ELA) tests, according to data released Monday by the California Charter Schools Association. The district’s magnets topped both. 

The district’s independent charters saw 46 percent of its students meet or exceed the standard on the ELA test, versus 39 percent for the district’s traditional schools. On the math test, 30 percent of independent charters met or exceeded the standard, versus 28 percent for traditional schools.

LA Unified has more charter students than any other district in the country. Last school year, when the tests were administered, the district had 101,000 charter students in 221 schools, making up 16 percent of the district enrollment.

Independent charters saw growth on the tests over last year, which was the first year the Common-Core aligned California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) was given. Charters were not alone in seeing growth, as both the district and the state also saw improvement over last year. The district’s independent charters had a 7 percentage point improvement on the ELA test and a 4 percentage point improvement on the math test, while traditional schools saw a 6 percentage point improvement on the ELA test and a 3 percentage point improvement on math.

“We are encouraged that charter schools increased the percent of students meeting and exceeding standards in both ELA and math from 2015 to 2016,” according to a CCSA statement.

Charters also demonstrated a high level of performance over traditional schools in some key subgroups. In some instances, charter subgroups outperformed the district’s overall traditional school average. (See graphic. Click the math button to change the numbers from English language arts to math.)

Demographically, independent charter students and traditional students who were tested matched up closely. The tests are given to students in grades 3 through 8 and in 11th grade. Of the students tested, 82 percent of charter students qualified as low-income, compared to 80 percent for traditional schools, according to LA Unified. Charters also match up closely on ethnicity with traditional schools, in particular for Latinos, with 74 percent for charters and 73 percent for traditional schools. Independent charters had 11 percent disabled students, compared to 12 percent for the district, and 19 percent English learners at charters compared to 18 percent at traditional schools.

As it did last year, LA Unified released numbers that showed its magnet schools outperformed the district’s independent charters, although the demographics on the two do not match up closely. Magnets had a lower number of low-income students (69 percent), students with disabilities (6 percent) and English learners (5 percent).

“This is another accomplishment to celebrate as we move closer to our goal of preparing all of our graduates for success,” LA Unified Superintendent Michelle King said in a statement. “We are working hard to identify strategies that support student achievement. We want all of our schools – no matter what model – to continue to make progress in helping students fulfill their potential. But what is great about LA Unified is that we believe in all of our schools and all of our students.”

Statewide, the results were more mixed for independent charters, the CCSA data showed. Although the demographics match up relatively closely, charter students trailed the state in the percentage meeting or exceeding the standard on the math test, 35 percent to 37 percent, but outperformed on the ELA test, 50 percent to 49 percent.

CCSA also presented numbers comparing LA’s independent charters to traditional schools, but removed affiliated charters from the equation. There were 53 affiliated charters in operation last year. The schools are primarily located in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods, and while they have many of the freedoms granted charters in how the schools are run, they adhere to all district collective bargaining agreements and also receive their budgets directly from the district.

When affiliated charters are removed, the scores for the district’s traditional schools drop.

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