Last week, the New York State Education Department released results for the 2018-19 grades 3-8 English language arts (ELA) and math assessments. We were not surprised that these results confirm the trend- of many years now -that NYC charter schools attain high student achievement results while continuing to close the proficiency gap. It is important to note that this is the first year in several years that no new test standards or testing procedures were implemented. It is not unexpected that the year-to-year gains were more moderate than in prior years (but also more legitimate and meaningful). The results for the charter sector were solid and once again New York City charter students outperformed their peers in traditional district schools. As always, we note, however, that direct comparisons between district and charter schools as to sector efficacy are difficult to make given differences in mission, enrollment structure and demographics.
Across New York City, both charter and traditional district schools made moderate improvements. While ELA scores for NYC charter school students held flat; the district experienced a small gain of 0.7 of a percentage point. In math NYC charter school students saw a gain of 3.70 percentage points; the district equivalent gain was 2.85 percentage points.
For the second year in a row, both Black and Latino charter students in NYC outperformed white students statewide.
It is worth nothing that in addition to Black and Latino students outpacing white students statewide and thereby eliminating the proficiency gap – both Black and Latino students have far higher chances of reaching Level 4 than their NYC district counterparts. Notably, in math, Black charter students’ Level 4 proficiency rate (Advanced Proficient) is almost that of White NYC students. ELA rates are also higher (twice as likely for Black students).
Among students with disabilities and multilingual learners (MLL/ELL) student populations, NYC charter students continue achieving proficiency at higher rates than their district peers.
For students with disabilities there was a negligible decrease in ELA proficiency (-.47%), but students in charter schools are still achieving proficiency at higher rates than their district peers. 28.86% of students with disabilities are reaching proficiency in ELA, compared to 16.14% in the district. In math, students with disabilities saw a gain of 2.97 percentage points. 37.09% of students with disabilities are proficient in Math, compared to 17.5% in the district.
For MLL/ELL there were slight decreases in both ELA (-2.87%) and Math (-2.83%) proficiencies, but students in charter schools are still achieving proficiency at higher rates than their district peers. 19.23% of MLL/ELL students are reaching proficiency in ELA, compared to 9.32% in the district. 30.77% of MLL/ELL students are proficient in Math, compared to 18.9% in the district.
While the results for students with disabilities and multilingual learners (MLL/ELL) student populations in charter schools are better than what the district has achieved, there is still much work to be done, to say the least, for both district and charter schools.
Charter performance on the 3-8 standardized assessments remains strong and while this is just the beginning of the inquiry into what makes a good school, these results should not be ignored. There is also a need for further study on why there are differences between the district and charter. As both the district and charters strive to improve, it is clear there is an urgent need for more high quality schools. For charters to be restricted in their ability to grow because the cap on charters in NYC has been reached is harmful to students. There are school leaders and teams ready and waiting to open more high-quality schools. It is time to end the arbitrary cap on charter school growth.