Charters score at both ends of performance criteria

Non-classroom based charter schools are more likely to be outperformed by the regular public schools -while brick-and-mortar charters out-perform both, according to a new report released Wednesday by the California Charter Schools Association.

The report, Portrait of the Movement, measured 138 non-classroom-based charter schools and found that 40 scored in the lowest 10 percent of all California schools. Alternatively, only 18 non-classroom charters scored in the top 10 percent.

Charters make up about half of all non-classroom-based schools statewide, or schools that operate completely online or through some other independent study program.

The overall survey was focused on 582 regular charter schools and found 98 scoring in the bottom 10 percent, while 139 scored in the top 10 percent.

We celebrate our significant successes and shine a light on our remaining challenges," said Jed Wallace, association president, in a conference call with reporters.

"And we propose a path to take deliberate steps toward a higher degree of academic accountability for public charter schools in California," he said.

That evaluation process was developed last year by the association and uses multiple years of Academic Performance Index data and a "Similar Students Measure" based on student family income, education and race, to predict academic achievement.

Overall, the group said, there were 30 charters that failed to meet the association's minimum performance standards in 2010, and the state's charter association did not support their renewal. The group also reported that those failing schools represent a variety of management and structural types.

Using the association's own performance criteria, charters were four times more likely than regular schools to score in the state's top 5 percentile, but also twice as likely to be in the lowest performing 5 percentile of the model.

The report's authors also point to evidence that shows that any kind of charter serving low income children is more likely to outperform regular schools with similar student demographics.

California is currently home to 912 charter schools, but the report excluded several from its report including small schools that test less than 20 students and schools that are part of the Alternative School Accountability Model.

The report did, however, note that small schools are more likely to be under-performing.

The association boasts that the Portrait of the Movement report has been endorsed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, the controversial former Washington D.C. schools chancellor.

For the purposes of the study, analysts defined non-classroom schools as being those where less than 80 percent of instructional time is offered at the school site when students are "engaged in educational activities required of those pupils and are under immediate supervision and control of an employee of the charter school who possesses a valid teaching certificate" - as defined in the state's Education Code.