Ohio Charter Schools Not Living Up to Promise

Public charter schools across the country were started with the promise of being alternative, quality options for parents to choose for their children. Unfortunately, public charter schools in Ohio haven’t quite lived up to that promise for all of the students they serve. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a report earlier this week showing that charter school students in Ohio, on average, receive 43 fewer days of learning in math and 14 fewer days of learning in reading than their traditional school counterparts. Furthermore, 93% of charter schools in Ohio fall below the 50th percentile of achievement, and 44% of charter schools are “characterized by both low achievement and low growth.”

Improvement Desperately Needed

Despite these negative findings, there are some bright spots in the report, and the charter sector in Ohio should take note and follow the lead of the high performers. For instance:
  • Forty-five percent of charter school students are black, in a state where only 14 percent of students are black. Most charter school students, 74 percent, live in poverty. Public charter schools have been accused of selecting wealthy, white students, and Ohio stands out as an example where this cherry-picking narrative is patently false.
  • Students in poverty do better in public charter schools in Ohio than they do in traditional public schools. For example, black students in poverty gain approximately 29 more days of learning in reading and 22 more days in mathematics than impoverished black students attending traditional schools.
  • Dayton stands out as an exemplar for special education students. There, special education students attending charter schools gain an astonishing 166 additional days of learning in reading and 180 additional days in math compared to their peers at traditional public schools.
That charter schools in Ohio aren’t performing well isn’t new, but Ohio has taken steps to rectify this imbalance. This year Governor Kasich signed a bill to close a legal loophole that allowed low-performing charter schools to hop from one authorizer to another, rather than closing down like the policy intended. That said, there is still a lot of work left to do. A recent report from the National Alliance of Charter School Authorizers provides a detailed look at the ways in which Ohio can act to create higher-quality education.
Valentina Payne
Valentina Payne joined Bellwether Education Partners in 2021 as chief of staff to Andy Rotherham on the External Relations team. Prior to Bellwether, she spent seven years at brightbeam, where she most recently served as its chief growth officer, overseeing operations, finance, fundraising, and strategic growth of the organization.

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