On September 13, 2023, all schools across New York State received access to their schools’ results for the 2022-23 grades 3-8 English Language Arts (ELA) and math assessments. NYSED, for reasons of its own, waited another three months to release these scores publicly.
Last year, we cautioned against comparing the 2022 scores to any other year given that assessments weren’t administered in 2020 and the low number of test takers in 2021 coupled with differences in the assessment format from earlier years. We had hoped that 2022 would serve as the new baseline for comparison purposes, but NYSED recalibrated the cut scores in 2023 and also made changes to the performance standards. As such, these assessment results are not directly comparable to 2022 outcomes—or any other previous year.
In 2023, New York City charter schools experienced higher rates of proficiency than New York City district schools, continuing a trend that is more than 15 years long. In ELA, the percentage proficient gap is seven (59% for charter schools to 52% for district schools); in math the gap is 13 percentage points (63% to 50%).1 (We expect NYC charters also outperformed state counterparts, but given the late release by NYSED, we have focused this analysis on NYC charter and district scores.)
The charter sector also saw larger gains in proficiency rates in math between 2022 and 2023 than the district: charter school proficiency rates increased 17 percentage points in math compared to a district increase of 12 percentage points; in ELA the gains were essentially the same (four percentage points for charter schools and three percentage points for district schools). The gains in math are suggestive of a long-standing “charter school instructional effect” in math. We have long recommended that researchers and practitioners take a close look at math instruction in high-performing charter schools.
Black and Hispanic students in NYC charter schools (who make up 90% of enrolled students) continued the trend of achieving much higher rates of proficiency than their counterparts in district schools in both ELA and math. In ELA, Black and Hispanic charter school students outperformed district counterparts by 19 percentage points (59% vs. 40%), and 16 percentage points (55% vs. 39%) respectively. In math, Black and Hispanic charter school students outperformed district counterparts by 27 percentage points (61% vs. 34%), and 25 percentage points (61% vs. 36%), respectively. While further statistical analysis is warranted, these are startlingly large gaps that demand further investigation.
The assessment outcomes for this year underscore the ongoing strength of the charter sector as a public school choice for families in New York City. We acknowledge the hard work of the charter teachers and leaders and know there is still much more to be done to improve student achievement.
1 As always, we note that using these assessment results to make direct comparisons between district and charter schools as to sector efficacy should be made with caution given differences in mission, enrollment structure, and demographics. These results are the starting point for further inquiry.