How many independent studies will it take before we can all agree? Charter schools in this city are a tremendous success. Recently, a New York City Independent Budget Office study found that public schools in the city, as a group, have made considerable progress in narrowing the achievement gap with schools in the rest of the state.
Between 2006, the first year for which valid comparisons can be made, and 2015, the city almost completely eliminated the gap in English Language Arts and more than halved it in math.
Leading the way, the IBO reports, are the city’s charter schools. After accounting for school demographics, charters have had even greater success compared to state schools than traditional schools in the city.
City charters outperform all schools in the rest of the state, on average, by 18.8 percentage points in ELA and 30.1 percentage points in math, after adjusting for demographics. Compare this to the 13.1-point and 12.5-point advantages of traditional schools in the city.
Unfortunately, charters are so politicized that many people simply refuse to believe the data. And, yes, it may be easy to skim over one report — but the fact of the matter is the IBO has conducted a series of studies over the past several months that show:
Counting the new study that compares the city and state as a whole, that’s four separate analyses by an independent, nonpartisan organization showing that charter schools are indeed part of the solution.
And objective confirmation of that doesn’t stop there. Marcus Winters, an economist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has also helped dispel some myths about charters and demonstrated that they’re making real progress on some tough and stubborn issues.
In his analyses, for example, Winters found no evidence to the baseless allegations often repeated by critics that charters systematically “push out” difficult-to-educate students, including English Language Learners, Students With Disabilities and academically low-performing kids.
Instead, he found that the lower number of these students at charters is due to the fact that charters are better at getting these kids beyond their disabilities and into the general student population than traditional district schools.
Last year, a study at the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University also found New York City charter students outperform their district peers by significant margins: After controlling for student demographics and prior achievement, charter kids gain the equivalent of an average 104 days of learning growth in math and 21 days in reading each year.
Notably, Latino and African- American charter kids boast a proficiency rate in math of 43 percent, compared to only 22 percent at the district schools. In the South Bronx, Upper Manhattan and Central Brooklyn — the city’s three lowest-income areas — charters outperform district schools in both math and ELA by significant margins.
Of course, the data is certainly clear that far too few of the city’s school kids are reading at grade level or are proficient in math.
Much more needs to be done citywide.
But in the wake of the IBO studies — and all the others — the time has come to give credit where credit is due. NYC charter schools are showing significant progress, and in many cases, leading the way on student success.
With greater autonomy and high standards of accountability, charter schools are well poised to serve all kinds of students, regardless of their backgrounds. They’re setting a strong example and getting it right. And the city’s children are the clear winners.
James Merriman is the CEO of the New York City Charter School Center.