Is Georgia's Charter School Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Conversations concerning authorization of charter schools typically include the question, “Do students at charter schools out-perform their counterparts at public non-charter schools?” It's certainly a fair place to begin a discussion of this issue. A report released this week in Georgia suggests they do not, although the report contained enough good news to buoy charter school advocates in the state.

A report presented this week to The Georgia Charter Schools Commission concluded only one out of every three schools chartered by the state scored better than the other schools in the same districts. Approximately two-thirds of the charter schools did not perform as well as other schools located in the same district.

But for some supporters of Georgia’s charter schools, the report seemed more like the glass is  half-full rather than half-empty. Georgia’s Charter School Commission has only granted charters to 14 schools, one of which wasn’t in operation during the 2011-12 school year. Therefore, the report is based on limited data comparing performance of charter and non-charter schools located within the same districts.

Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing charter schools after Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled a 2008 law authorizing charter schools to be unconstitutional.

The report compares data from the state College and Career Readiness Performance Index for the 2011-12 school year. The data is based on student performance and student and school progress. In some subcategories measuring student progress, approximately half of the elementary and middle schools outperformed their districts while three-fourths of the high schools did the same. In reducing achievement gaps, 56 percent of the charter elementary schools exceeded their districts, and two-thirds of the middle and high schools did the same. In innovation, 44 percent of the elementary schools, 73 percent of the middle schools and 50 percent of the high schools had better scores than their districts.