Groups disagree on charter performance

LANSING, Mich. – The state board of education approved a favorable charter school report Tuesday, but will respond next year to arguments that its method of comparing charter performance with traditional schools is misleading, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The 2008 report concludes that students in charter public schools generally outperform students in the state’s “host districts” on Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests. To reach that conclusion, the state compared average MEAP scores from all 232 charter schools with average MEAP scores from the 20 traditional school districts where most charter schools are located. Those 20 districts are called host districts.

A Western Michigan University professor, the Michigan Education Association and the Free Press questioned that methodology, the Free Press reported. In its own analysis, the Free Press did head-to-head comparisons between each charter school and the single public school district where it is located. Using that methodology, based on math scores from 2007, the Free Press concluded that nearly three of five charter schools performed worse than their local district.

But the Michigan Association of Public School Academies also did an analysis, which compared performance by traditional public schools in Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids with the charter schools located in just those communities. That analysis, based on 2008 MEAP scores, showed that charter schools reached higher proficiency levels in math and language arts in each community, according to a MAPSA press release.

One problem with head-to-head comparisons is that charter schools do not draw students from just the nearest traditional district, charter leaders told the Free Press.

Central Michigan University said that 23 of the charter schools it authorizes draw more than half their population from districts beyond the one where the charter is located, according to the article.

The education department said it will consider changing its methodology next year, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, “Charter schools on defense,” April 14, 2009

Detroit Free Press, “Charter school report OK’d,” April 15, 2009

Michigan Association of Public School Academies, “MEAP results confirm strong academic performance by public charter school students,” April 9, 2009

Michigan Education Report, “Charter report favorable, state board wants more,” Feb. 24, 2009