2014-15 State Test Score Analysis: Charters Better Serving African-American and Hispanic Students

By Michael Pih

On Wednesday, the New York State Education Department (SED) released scores from the third year of the Common Core 3-8 Assessments.   

View Interactive Charts   Download Test Scores

Performance by African-American and Hispanic students in charter schools far exceeds that of their district counterparts. In Math, African-American and Hispanic charter school students outperform their district peers by +23.9 percentage points, and +18.4 percentage points, respectively. Gaps in ELA are smaller but still significant with a gap for African-American students in proficiency rates of +9.9 percentage points and for Hispanics of +6.8 percentage points. Given that charter schools enroll mostly students from these two subgroups (over 90%), this finding is significant and highly promising. Further, for students identified as economically disadvantaged, charter schools once again outperform their district peers. 

Given NYC’s segregation by housing, these patterns are, not surprisingly, also evident when looking at charter school performance geographically.  Where charter schools are most concentrated, Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the South Bronx, charter schools outperform the district in both Math and ELA, again by large margins.

Overall, charter schools in NYC continue to significantly exceed district proficiency rates in Math (44% proficient to 35% for district students) and lag the district in ELA, though the gap is small overall, just +1.1 percentage points. Interestingly, third grade ELA performance exceeds the district and may herald improvement both absolutely and in comparison with district students. 

The picture, however, is not all positive. For both charter and district schools, the data show that more needs to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners, particularly in ELA, where proficiency rates are less than 10%.  Also, charter school students did not see significant gains from the 2013-14 results; in fact, those gains were smaller than the very modest gains made by the district. 

A lot of attention has been given to parents opting their children out of taking the state assessments this year.  As it turns out, opt-out had very little impact in either the charter sector or the district. In the district, 1.4% of students opted out of the Common Core Assessments, which represents about 5,500 students in grades 3-8. Between the nearly 150 NYC charter schools educating students in grades 3-8, only 0.3% opted out, or just over 100 students. While students and families have chosen to opt-out in many other parts of the State, NYC families in most parts of the city appear not to be jumping onto that bandwagon. This may reflect a more measured union stance here in the city than upstate, or the fact that parents in the city are used to these assessments being used to make high-stakes decisions such as admission to screened middle and high school programs (a practice currently prohibited by a new state law).

To help navigate the trove of data the SED released, we provide an interactive presentation that highlights NYC charter school results.  The Tableau presentation has several features that allow the user to interactively filter results, highlight schools or networks, and to easily move between frames.

In some cases, comparisons to the district, and to a charter school’s Community School District (CSD), are made to provide context. As always, we caution that, given different demographics and enrollment structures (both intra- and inter-sector), such comparisons are starting points for further investigation, but cannot be used to definitively determine which schools and sectors are superior. To further that investigation, for the first time ever, we have also provided demographic data by charter school.

View Interactive Charts   Download Test Scores