Mastery celebrates students, their achievements

Mastery Charter Schools celebrate its students, their academic achievements and college admissions during their College Signing Day event hosted at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. — Photo by Tribune Chief Photographer Abdul R. Sulayman

A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found students attending charter schools in Philadelphia are posting larger gains than their traditional public school peers.

Released Wednesday, the study analyzed 41 urban areas in 22 states to create a matched student database containing data from charter schools and traditional public schools between the 2006-2007 and 2011-2012 school years.

“One of our largest research efforts to date, this study targets our focus on charter schools in urban areas because these are communities where students have faced significant education challenges and are in great need of effective approaches to achieve academic success,” said Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO at Stanford University. “This research shows that many urban charter schools are providing superior academic learning for their students, in many cases quite dramatically better. These findings offer important examples of school organization and operation that can serve as models to other schools, including both public charter schools and traditional public schools.”

Bob Fayfich, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, said the report’s findings are not surprising to anyone who truly understands what is happening in the charter school movement.

“There is significant improvement over the findings in the 2011 CREDO study that looked at charter school performance statewide from 2004 through 2008. The best schools are getting better and the lower performing schools are closing — and that is as it should be. The CREDO study shows that, when given a chance, public school choice works in urban areas, including Philadelphia. This is why charter schools that are outperforming district schools should be allowed to continue to operate, but should also be allowed to expand so they can serve the needs of more children.”

The CREDO study indicates Philadelphia charter schools outperformed students in traditional public schools in reading and math. Philadelphia was the only urban school district in Pennsylvania included in the study.

In contrast, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, which advocates for quality schools, issued a report in January that recommended no new charter school approvals in 2015. The report found fault with state legislation that required a new round of applications as a condition of extending a local cigarette sales tax.

The group said increased competition would reduce funding to more drastic levels, pulling resources from existing schools and reduce quality of those programs. The group’s report showed half of the applicants already operate charter schools in the city and nearly half of those fell short of meeting state benchmarks in reading and math.

The group recommended taking no action on charter school proposals because significant numbers are familiar names to Philadelphia and have reported academic troubles, financial missteps and student disciplinary issues.

PCCY wants the School District of Philadelphia to hold off on approving new charter schools until more resources are available for public funding.

In terms of school performance, 61 percent of Philadelphia charter schools outperformed traditional public schools in math and 20 percent showed no statistical difference, according to the CREDO study. In reading, 61 percent of charters outperformed and 25 percent showed no statistical difference.

The report notes students who are both low-income and Black or Hispanic, or who are both Hispanic and English language learners, especially benefit from charter schools.

“When it comes to education, there is no one size fits all,” said Peter Cunningham, executive director of Education Post, a communications organization dedicated to building support for student-focused improvements in public education.

“Parents want options and children need them, and we know that in many places, like Philadelphia, it is working very well.”

According to the report, across 41 regions urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in math and reading, which amounts to 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading. Compared to the national profile of charter school performance, urban charters produce more positive results. CREDO’s National Charter School Study results in 2013 found charter schools provided seven additional days of learning per year in reading and no significant difference in math.

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