Thursday, September 19, 2019

Charter Schools are Working

Editor's note: This post is a guest column submitted by Rachel Canter, Executive Director of Mississippi First. 

Are Mississippi charter schools working? The picture is becoming clearer.

Last month, the Mississippi Department of Education released preliminary accountability data from the 2018-2019 school year. This data includes proficiency scores on English language arts (ELA) and math assessments in grades 3-8 and high school (Algebra I and English II). Growth data, as well as proficiency data for science and history, are required to construct an A-F accountability grade. Growth data is particularly important for charter schools because all of the schools eligible for grades this year started with 5th graders who entered already behind. Growth data will tell us more about how well the schools are moving kids towards proficiency, regardless of their starting point, than merely looking at proficiency data.

This year is make or break for two of the charter schools, Reimagine Prep and Midtown Public Charter, because these schools are up for renewal this year. This means that they have to apply to have their charter renewed. F-rated schools are not eligible for renewal, and D- and C-rated schools cannot be renewed for a full five-year term. Last year, Reimagine earned a C while Midtown earned an F. If Reimagine can improve to a B this year, it can earn a full five-year renewal. Midtown needs to improve to a D just to survive. If it earns a D, it can be renewed for a three-year term.

What do we know?

Let’s start first with what the data reported last month mean. MDE takes student scores (called scale scores) on assessments and converts them to one of five levels: minimal—1, basic—2, pass—3, proficient—4, and advanced—5. In the accountability system, schools get proficiency credit for every student who is proficient or advanced (levels 4 and 5) because these levels represent what students should know and be able to do in a given grade. To incentivize progress and to account for the fact that schools have students at different starting places, schools get growth credit when students move up a category, move from the bottom to the top within levels 1-3, or maintain level 4 or level 5 across years. 

For every school, MDE takes a weighted average across grades to create the overall performance of the school. That means that a school that does really well in a grade with few students but terribly in other grades with many more students will have an overall proficiency performance that is low. 

So how did Mississippi’s charter schools do in terms of proficiency last year? 

There are three charter schools with kids old enough to have data: Reimagine Prep, Joel E. Smilow Prep, and Midtown Public. All of these schools are middle schools, with Reimagine Prep and Midtown serving students in grades 5-8 and Smilow serving students in grades 5-7. Here are overall proficiency rates (levels 4 and 5) for each of these schools in ELA and math for each grade. (I used the released data file to construct the school averages, so they are estimates.)

ELA

5
6
7
8
SCHOOL AVERAGE
Reimagine
23.4%
22.7%
27%
23.3%
25.6%
Midtown
18.6%
8.1%
14.5%
11.7%
12.8%
Smilow
12.8%
7.4%
19.7%
--
13.2%

Math

5
6
7
8
Algebra I
SCHOOL AVERAGE
Reimagine
25.8%
42.6%
54.6%
42.5%
67.6%
43.3%
Midtown
2.3%
14.5%
26.5%
6.7%
--
13.7%
Smilow
12.0%
21.6%
54.1%
--
--
28.9%

Already, we begin to see a pattern. Reimagine has the strongest performance of the three, across both ELA and math, with math being its strongest subject. Their overall proficiency numbers in both subjects are an improvement over last year, which is good news as it may mean they will improve to a B if both science proficiency and growth scores are strong (growth usually improves when proficiency improves). 

Smilow is in the middle, having much stronger performance in math than in ELA. Smilow strongly improved its math proficiency over last year, but they appear to have declined a bit in ELA. For Smilow to go from a D to a C, they will need to turn up very good science proficiency data as well as big growth data in math without losing too much ground in growth in ELA. 

Midtown is last of the three charters with similar performance in ELA and math. The good news for Midtown is that these proficiency scores are actually big improvements from last year. Despite low rates, these numbers improved by 50% in ELA and by 300% in math. This is a good sign that Midtown will have strong growth numbers in both ELA and math. If science proficiency improves, they may have done enough to improve from an F to a D, their first big improvement since the school opened—a feat for the new leadership at Midtown, if this holds.

We’ll know on Thursday whether the schools have improved their grades as well as how the schools compare to others like them in the state. Be cautious, though, in making comparisons. Remember that the charter schools serve a population that is nearly 100% in poverty and that has a higher percentage of students with disabilities than schools in Jackson Public Schools. They also cannot select their students using academic or other criteria. That means that a school like Bailey Middle School in Jackson, which is academically selective enrollment, is not a fair comparator. 

The recent Supreme Court ruling for charter schools was a fantastic way to start the month. Let’s hope we see more good news on Thursday.


Kingfish note: The column was submitted a few days before the school ratings were released.  Reimagine Prep earned a B, Smillow a C, and Mid-Town a D. 

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Parents who send their kids to charter school must understand that they have only completed one half of the equation. The other half requires their involvement and support. We tend to assume that charter parents are more concerned about their children's education. If so, they should prove it with support and involvement, otherwise the results will be no better than regular public school.

Anonymous said...

The largest group opposed to charter schools are white liberals. Example David Blount... You know the private school Jackson residents that think black kids should go to the school they're told to. Actually in black neighborhoods they display the charter schools in the yard proudly. Look at the polling with black democrat voters they favor charter schools and voted for Republican candidates in large numbers.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the obsession with charter schools. I went to the worst public schools and did just fine. Small private schools are the real terror.

Anonymous said...

If so, they should prove it with support and involvement ...

Total fluff. Total fluff comment.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that tracking individual student improvement would be a better measure. The stats above are not well explained.


All students should be tested for proficiency on day 1.

A sample of students from each school with the same level of proficiency would be tested again at mid-year and at year end ( same test) for comparison.

This way the highest and lowest and mid-range test results would be tracked.

That initial sample would be tracked again in the following school years.

Otherwise, how on earth can you really tell if any student is improving their level of performance?

It's ridiculous to compare schools without any real picture of the composition of the student body. ReimaginePrep may have students with less ground to make up or high learning abilities.

You also could track teacher performance this way. Did students with the same test results do better with teacher X than teacher Y and if so, was it the teaching methods or curriculum emphasis choices ?


Anonymous said...

@9:05

Can you provide proof of your assertions?

Anonymous said...

If you think small private schools are a terror, then maybe you didn't turn out so OK from your terrible public school.

Anonymous said...

Otherwise, how on earth can you really tell if any student is improving their level of performance?

Post Day 1 sampling doesn't do it as you are suggesting. Sampling will not tell you if "any student" is actually improving.

Anonymous said...

“ Look at the polling with black democrat voters they favor charter schools and voted for Republican candidates in large numbers.”

Can you direct us to these polling numbers and crosstabs, 9:05? BTW, Impressive run-on sentences. Perhaps one of these charter schools can work for you.

Grant Callen said...

Great analysis by Rachel. Charter school grades have been released and we now know that no charter school is currently rated F. Reimagine is rated B and Midtown charter moved up to a D, while scoring the #1 most growth percentage points of any district in the state! Incredible work by students, teachers, parents, and principals.

Anonymous said...

@9:33
In Florida Desantis won over black democrat by carrying over 220,000 plus black mom's that are normally democrat voters solely because of charter schools issue. BET exit poll shows black democrats care about school choice charter schools over white democrat voters. Go drive around hanging moss or Beasley Rd area and look at the charter school signs in the yards... The waiting list is long. From azalea Dr to Forrest park they're all over the place proudly displaying them out front.

Anonymous said...

@9:33
One would think that blacks in the poor neighborhoods and crappy school districts should have a choice of schools. After all what is freedom without choice other than control. I can't wrap my head around anyone that would oppose choice. After all these schools don't skim students from the top. It's simply a lottery system. Yes black single mothers have been on that list for a while and pray there child is accepted should an opening occur. Choice is a wonderful thing isn't it.

Anonymous said...

1-charter schools are public schools. being an advocate for charter schools is being an advocate for public schools.
2-the reason they have money for teachers, supplies, education is that they don't have to pay bloated administrator salaries. less administration=more money for students
3-the parents have to be involved. the school isn't a dumping ground for free daycare.
4-like our suburban districts that are rated well, charter schools don't have to pass someone for attendance, they promote grades if the student deserves it. they (the smaller and more involved administrative staff) want students to succeed, so they will hold students back if its best for them.
5-in a school district like JPS that has a lot of money floating through, and very little reaches the students..the state should clear any and all charters that want to open in Jackson. it's the way to actually make a difference. does reeves or hood have the political resolve to make this happen?

Anonymous said...

@12:42
Unfortunately, Mississippi political leadership has no backbone... either party actually.

Anonymous said...

The joke that is Charter Schools will set minority kids back farther. It's the same scheme run by the folks who run private prisons. They are from out of state and the end of the day their objective is neither education or rehabilitation, it's profit.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit. Part of the reason behind charters is that the "competition" will make the real public schools do better. It isn't working. So if charters are better school concepts, just make all the lesser performing public schools charters!

Wow said...

Thinking about this strategically:

Step 1: Continue to be very selective about which charter school models are allowed in Mississippi

Step 2: Continue to use data to validate which charter school model or implementation is actually working best over a 5+ year period, noting part of their work is bringing children just back to grade level.

Step 3: Validate and test public school to charter school conversion--starting with targeted alternative schools and the most vulnerable of populations.

Step 4: Charters are part of the public school ecosystem in which new education delivery methods can be tested and validated and then implemented in traditional public school settings.

These things do not have to be in opposition to each other. A good, future and forward thinking school district will understand that if they take a vested interest in supporting charter schools in their district, they are supporting innovation in educational delivery. Things learned within their district by a charter can then be implemented district wide and beyond.

The key to all of this is us continuation to take advantage of the fact that we are late adopters of the charter school model. That puts us in the advantageous position of being very selective about which charters to allow to operate in Mississippi.


Anonymous said...

What about that nutritious lunch you had today? Do you know what motivated that greedy farmer, truck driver, and restaurant owner who served it to you? PROFIT! What about the greedy doctors who keep us healthy? Do they work on a volunteer basis? No, they are motivated by profit. Any insistence that education is somehow different and more important than our health is nothing other than a liberal delusion called socialism. The only way to improve our public schools is to apply market forces, allow the money to follow the kids.

Anonymous said...

Charter schools ain't much better than your average academy school. That's why the junior colleges are full.

Anonymous said...

Our junior colleges are full bc we are a poor state overall. If you think Mississippi State southern miss or ole miss are difficult to get into then you need to familiarize yourself with there acceptance rate. It's nearly comical. Let's not forget JSU or Alcorn.

Anonymous said...

Wow, 7:49 pm, wonder which of the fine academic disasters you attended?

You need to go back and familiarize yourself with basic writing, spelling skills, not to mention punctuation and capitalization. Bet it was a District 2 school that ole Bennie keeps expounding "vote for me and I'll set you up with a fish fry"

Anonymous said...

@9:55
I attended Birmingham Southern... my grammer/writing skills are poor on this blog because I write it using my galaxy phone and it's difficult to manage or see it well.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how many white people use this blog to explain what black people think.

Anonymous said...

9:55. You're an embarrassment to the white race. I can only pray that you're not reproducing.

Anonymous said...

"Bullshit. Part of the reason behind charters is that the "competition" will make the real public schools do better. It isn't working. September 19, 2019 at 3:21 PM"

To the bullshitter at 3:21...You do realize how long charters have existed in Mississippi, where they are and how many there are, don't you? How much change do you expect should have been made in 2.5 years (in JPS, for example)? It could reasonably take fifteen years. Or two decades (that's 20 years for the bullshitter).

If I were the parent of a child in a failing district, I'd be more concerned with moving him to an alternative situation than I would be with some mythical change being made in his present school.

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