DC Charters Rated Nation’s Best

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Blake Neff Reporter
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A new report evaluating the health of charter schools around the country has dubbed the District of Columbia’s charter school system to be the nation’s strongest, while Louisiana does best among the 50 states.

The 2014 Health of the Public Charter School Movement report was produced by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), one of the nation’s most significant advocacy groups for charter schools. The report is the first of its kind produced by NAPCS, which has generally focused on evaluating state laws regarding charters rather than the schools themselves.  A broader look is necessary, the group said, to ensure the laws it promotes are bearing fruit.

“It is not enough to just pass a strong law; we must also make sure that it is implemented well and that other factors for success are in place,” said NAPCS president Nina Rees in a statement sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The report assessed all 50 states, though only 25 states (plus D.C.) that had a sufficient amount of data pertaining to them were ranked.

A state’s charter school “health” was determined by eleven different factors, including what percentage of public schools are charters, how well charter students perform compared to public school peers, what percentage of students are racial minorities (more is better), and how many charters make use of strategies the NAPCS deemed “innovative,” such as adopting a year-round school calendar.

According to the report, the charter school system in the District of Columbia is by far the nation’s best, scoring 104 points out of a possible 116, well ahead of second-place Louisiana’s 85 points.

Rounding out the top five were Michigan, New Jersey, and New York. Finishing at the bottom was Nevada, which scored a scant 32 points, followed by Oregon with 35. D.C. charters stand out based on the high number of students attending them (44 percent of all public school students), the high proportion of minorities and vulnerable groups attending, and its ability to close down a small but steady number of low-performing schools.

Most importantly, though, students at D.C. charters are said to produce far superior academic outcomes, with the charter advantage in mathematics so great it amounts to almost four months of extra instruction in terms of effectiveness.

In comparison, Nevada’s charter schools serve a small group of students that is whiter than the general school population. Even worse, students at Nevada charters perform atrociously compared to their counterparts in standard public schools, a situation NACPS praised the state for trying to address by reforming its charter accountability law to hold schools to tougher standards.

NACPS concluded that charter school health is strongly, though not perfectly, correlated with quality charter school laws that make it easy to open new schools and then hold them to account, and said that its first foray into charter school ratings, though hampered by limited data, gave strong support to the value of robust charter school laws.

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