Annual Privatization Report 2013

High-Achieving Charter Schools Serve Diverse Demands of Their Communities

Subsection of Annual Privatization Report 2013: Education

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Rather than automatically being assigned students by residential location, charter schools have some autonomy over the type of student population they aim to attract. Charter schools utilize their autonomy with location-based strategies, recruitment efforts and enrollment processes to attract a particular student population based on the needs of their community. Charter schools are often subject to two serious criticisms of their student enrollment strategies. First, if a charter school has an enrollment strategy focused on choosing a student population that is similar to a homogenous neighborhood population, which results in a school population that is similar in terms of race and economic background, charters are often accused of re-segregation and failing to have a diverse population. On the other hand, if charters choose a recruitment effort designed to attract a diverse student population from many different districts and student groups, they are often accused of skimming local populations for the best performing students. On this basis, critics claim that gains in student achievement are the result of the students enrolled and not the institutional structure of the charter.

In an effort to test this hypothesis, a 2012 issue brief by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools paired charter schools or charter school networks with vastly different recruitment models in each of three cities—Denver, CO; Washington, D.C., and San Diego, California.1 Despite their different approaches and mission, all the schools or networks studied shared the commonality of extraordinary academic achievement by their students. The issue brief compared these schools or networks by the financial and racial make-up of their student population, as well as their impact on student achievement. These case studies from Denver, Washington, D.C. and San Diego demonstrate that charter schools can perform extremely well regardless of whether they enroll students that reflect the demographic characteristics of a homogenous neighborhood or school district or intentionally enroll a more economically and racially diverse student body. Having different types of charter schools in the same district can offer students more high quality educational options.

The make-up of each school’s student population by the percent of the student population eligible for free and reduced lunch and by racial ethnicity are shown below in figures 1-6. Findings of student achievement at each school are listed below in tables 1-3 :

Figure 1: West Denver Prep

Figure 2: Denver School of Science and Technology

Table 1: Impact on Student Achievement—Denver, CO

West Denver Prep Denver School of Science and Technology
Homogenous Student Population Diverse Student Population
• WDP network has 4 of 7 top performing schools on the DPS School Performance Framework.

• Highest performing school in CO for academic growth.

• 100 percent of DSST high school graduates have been accepted to a four-year college since their first graduate class in 2008.

• One of the leading open-enrollment STEM schools in the United States.

Source: N. Kern, R. Thukral, and T. Ziebarth, A Mission to Serve: How Public Charter Schools are Designed to Meet the Diverse Demands of Our Communities, (Washington: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2012).

Figure 3: Achievement Prep

Figure 4: E.L. Hayes Public Charter School

Table 2: Impact on Student Achievement—Washington, DC

Achievement Prep E.L. Hayes Public Charter School
Homogenous Student Population Diverse Student Population
• On 2011 standardized tests 65 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in reading and 77 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.

• Ranked in Tier 1 for meeting standards of high performance in the D.C. Public Charter School Board’s Performance Management Framework.

• On 2011 standardized tests 60 percent scored proficient or advanced in reading and 87 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.

• Ranked in Tier 1 for meeting standards of high performance in the D.C. Public Charter School Board’s Performance Management Framework.

• Recipient of 2011 EPIC Award-Silver Gain Status.

Source: N. Kern, R. Thukral, and T. Ziebarth, A Mission to Serve: How Public Charter Schools are Designed to Meet the Diverse Demands of Our Communities, (Washington: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2012).

Figure 5: Preuss School UCSD

Figure 6: High Tech High

Table 3: Impact on Student Achievement—San Diego, CA

Preuss School UCSD High Tech High
Homogenous Student Population Diverse Student Population
• 100 percent of Preuss’s graduates have been admitted to college, with approximately 80 percent admitted to a four-year program.

• Named the nation’s top “miracle high school” by Newsweek magazine.

• 95 percent of the class of 2011 has been accepted to a four-year college or university.

Source: N. Kern, R. Thukral, and T. Ziebarth, A Mission to Serve: How Public Charter Schools are Designed to Meet the Diverse Demands of Our Communities, (Washington: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2012).

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Endnotes

1 N. Kern, R. Thukral, and T. Ziebarth, A Mission to Serve: How Public Charter Schools are Designed to Meet the Diverse Demands of Our Communities, (Washington: National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2012).

Katie Furtick is Policy Analyst





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