Charter schools top city’s in performance

The report is based on math and reading scores over a two-year period.



YOUNGSTOWN — Charter schools operating in the city showed greater yearly academic growth than city schools last year, according to a report prepared by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The report is based on new “value-added” data from the Ohio Department of Education that looked at math and reading performances in grades four through eight over a two-year period as a way to judge academic growth. The added value is that the state is now also assessing schools by tracking pupil educational advancement over a period of time, rather than just through one-shot achievement testing.

Only seven of the 10 charter schools operating in Youngstown with pupils in those grade levels are part of the state’s value-added data. Those schools not on the list didn’t have two years of data to report to the state for comparison purposes.

OAPCS said its report shows that 57 percent of the seven local charter schools met or exceeded the state’s academic growth expectation between 2005-06 and 2006-07. Only 38 percent of the 16 public city schools reviewed by the state met or exceeded the state’s growth expectation, the report said.

The report used the state value-added data to look at all of Ohio’s Big 8 public school districts and 115 of the charter schools that operate in their locales and found that the charters outperformed the public schools in five of those districts — Youngstown, Akron, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo — in terms of performance growth in reading and math.

Only the Canton and Cleveland public schools outperformed the charter schools in their areas, according to OAPCS.

“We’ve been able to make great gains by focusing on teaching to the [state] content standards,” said Barbara Curtis-Murphy, principal of Eagle Heights Academy on Market Street, which exceeded state growth expectations.

Eagle Heights uses “data-driven instruction,” she said, explaining that the school makes curricular decisions by carefully monitoring school data at least four times a year and making teaching adjustments accordingly.

The school, which has 900 children in kindergarten through the eighth grade, has a strong involvement with parents and the community and focuses on professional development, she said.

“The news here is that community charter schools in Ohio’s Big 8 districts — home to 66 percent of all Ohio charter schools — are performing well and, in most cases, exceeding the performance of the traditional schools,” said Bill Sims, OAPCS president and CEO.

Karla Carruthers, ODE spokeswoman, said the OAPCS report is accurate but cautioned that it represents only one year of comparison and only one aspect of the state’s performance review. It isn’t a trend at this point, she said.

Carruthers said the state has been urged by schools for years to include year-to-year performance comparisons rather than rely only on the results of one-time achievement testing to assess schools on the state local report card.

The new value-added data was prepared separately but will become a regular part of the local report card ratings coming out in August, she said.

“The issue is not charter schools. The issue is students achieving. Charters and publics overall need to perform better,” said Dr. Wendy Webb, Youngstown schools superintendent.

OAPCS feels the value-added information reflects more on the quality that goes into a school than does proficiency testing, Sims said. He noted that charter schools have “taken a beating” on those tests, often because they enroll children who aren’t performing well in the traditional public school environment.

This shows progress, he said, explaining that it means the charter schools are helping their pupils advance and make gains.

“Charter school leaders appreciate the value-added tool because it provides them with a metric for expressing individual student growth,” Sims said.

“The educational leaders of public and charter schools are people committed to being part of the educational solution and, while resources alone are not the answer, the funding situation is pitting schools against schools and causing a side effect of students bouncing from one school to another,” said Webb.

“The school funding system must be fixed. Schools need adequate, unrestricted funds that free educational leaders up to meet the needs of the population of students each district serves,” she said. “Our goal should be every child receives a thorough and adequate education in a timely fashion. As educators we will continue to seek differentiated instructional pedagogy to help students learn at a faster pace.”

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