2013-14 Test Scores Show Gains

New York State entered the 2013-14 school year—the second year of the Common Core era—with a pointed awareness of the challenges revealed by the 2012-13 test scores. The good news is that test scores released yesterday show progress across the board toward the goal of college and career readiness for all students in both Math and ELA.

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UPDATE 8/25/14: The State Education Department’s initial public release omitted scores for two charter schools (Metropolitan Lighthouse CS and Leadership Prep Canarsie CS) as was noted in the original version of this post. These scores have now been released and are reflected in all figures and charts below.

For charter school students in New York City, the gains in Math are particularly notable—over nine percentage points in proficiency (the largest gain for any group or sector)—and underscored by data showing that 15 of the 20 highest gainers among New York States’ high-poverty schools were charters (most located in NYC). ELA performance, while somewhat improved, continues to be disappointingly low sector-wide, a pattern in district schools too. And while charter schools that are in Central Brooklyn, Harlem and the South Bronx far outpace their district school counterparts (as they have year after year), with over two-thirds of charter school students not proficient in ELA, there is much work to be done.

Equally notable is the wide variation in school performance within the sector, a reminder that school governance structures are important but what is happening in classrooms (and how that performance is supported) is even more important. The time is ripe for taking a far more detailed look into schools that are “beating the odds,” not just in the charter sector but in traditional schools as well. We today do not know nearly enough.

Other highlights:

  • Charter schools’ proficiency rates – 2013 vs. 2014: After another year’s work to strengthen instruction in alignment with the Common Core standards, New York City charter school students made gains in both Math (43.9% Proficient, up 9.0 points from 34.8% in the previous year) and English Language Arts (28.1%, up 3.0 points from 25.0%).
  • Charter proficiency rates vs. district schools: Math proficiency rates are 9.6 points higher in NYC charter schools than in district schools citywide (43.9% vs. 34.3%), but 0.4 points lower in ELA (28.1% vs. 28.5%) making up most of the gap that existed last year. However, when charter schools are compared to district schools in the three areas in which they are concentrated—Harlem, Central Brooklyn, South Bronx—charter schools once again far outpace their district counterparts in both subject areas—with proficiency rates more than double in Math and in ELA higher by between seven and 14 points.
  • Gains from 2013 to 2014, Charter vs. Citywide: NYC students overall made gains in proficiency. NYC charter schools’ increases in proficiency were larger than the district school gain in both Math (+9.0 points vs. +4.5 points) and ELA (+3.0 points vs. +2.0 points).

  • Comparing minority groups, Charter vs. Citywide: Over 90% of NYC charter students are Black or Hispanic, but—among returning students, for whom comparisons are available–NYC charter proficiency rates are significantly higher than the citywide average for these student subgroups. In NYC overall, returning (i.e. “matched”) Black students scored Proficient or better at a rate of 18.5%/18.6% in Math/ELA; for charters overall the rates are 42.5% in math (more than double) and 26.9% for ELA (almost a third better). Among returning Hispanic students in NYC district schools the proficiency rates for ELA and math are 23.2%/18.7%. (Testing data is not yet available about NYC charter school students by race/ethnicity.)
  • Beating the Odds: Though charter schools make up just 9% of the highest poverty schools in New York State (due to how few charter schools there are), they make up 25% of the 100 top performers in this group by Math proficiency, a hugely disproportionate share.

Below is a slideshow of interactive charts that you can use to explore the test scores of charter schools, charter school networks, and the NYC charter school sector as a whole. Since test results are impacted by a wide range of factors including enrollment/attrition patterns, grade levels served, and student demographics, we hope this tool is used as a mere starting point for further inquiry.