The debate on which is better, a charter or traditional public school, is still on, and verdict yet to be out. However, with the standardized state assessments that test students from both schools, results indicate higher performance in favor of charter schools.
The recent results for the 2021-2022 third grade Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) English Language and Arts (ELA) seems to be consistent with this trend, as charter schools outshine the traditional public schools by an entire 7%.
While there are still some debates on whether or not charter schools are better, it is evident that they are doing better than their non-charter counterparts. What could this imply for the future of education?
Let’s take a closer look at this breakdown.
Differentiating Between Charter and Traditional Public Schools
Charter schools are public schools that operate with more autonomy than traditional public schools. Some core differentiating factors being funding, governance, and curriculum. They are publicly-funded, tuition-free but privately managed.
They have the autonomy to determine their own curriculum and hiring decisions, which allows them to be more innovative and nimble than traditional public schools.
On the other hand, traditional public schools are overseen by government entities and must adhere to specified regulations. While this can sometimes stifle creativity, it also provides a level of certainty and stability that families may appreciate.
Even though individual student aptitude plays a role in the child’s performance, charter schools continue to outperform traditional public schools in Florida, according to the FSA.
The gap will widen in the coming years if the unbeaten track record is anything to go by since the first FSA was administered in 2015.
Are charter schools providing a better education for students, or are they just skimming off the best students from traditional public schools? What the FSA tells us.
What the Florida Standards Assessments is About
The Florida Standards Assessments are standardized state tests that measure students’ achievement of the educational standards. The FSA tests students in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics to ensure students from all public Florida schools receive the required foundation to succeed in the subsequent grades and courses.
With students in the state attending different schools with differing models, curriculum, and administration, such as charter, non-charter and Montessori schools, the FSA provides a level field to test the progress and education quality for students.
So, how does the FSA measure the performance of students?
The Florida Standards were created with expert input from educators, district administrators, community leaders, and public members to capture a fair and quality check for education in the state. From these, more than 300 educators designed passing or achievement levels as Level 1 (inadequate) through Level 5 (mastery) and the corresponding test scores.
Achievement/Passing Level: Fig 1
Source: Florida Department of Education
Test Scores per Level: Fig 2
Source: Florida Department of Education
The first FSA was in Spring of 2015 and the last in Spring 2022, with charter schools outshining non-charter schools consecutively through the years.
Even as the curtains of the FSA close, the statewide assessment of schools transitions to a new system aligned to the Benchmarks of Excellence Student Thinking standards. The new testing system will begin in the 2022-2023 school year, and will be known as Florida’s Assessment of Student Thinking (FAST).
How Charter Schools Stacked Against Traditional Schools in 2022 FSA ELA Results
Florida’s Department of Education released the Spring 2022 Third Grade English Language Arts (ELA) Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) report that shows charter schools outperform traditional public schools when it comes to ELA (English Language Arts) performance.
The report covers the performance of almost 4,000 elementary and middle schools in the state.
Charter school students scored an average of 7% higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Although this score is a decline by 2% from 2021 results, they still outscored non-charter public schools at 59% to 52%.
Charter Vs Non-Charter Schools Performance: Fig 3
How Countryside Montessori Charter School Stacked Against Other Schools Statewide
Speaking of charter schools’ stellar performance and consistency, Countryside Montessori Charter School (CMCS), a charter and Montessori school, had an impressive record. CMCS exceeded the average score for charter schools, with 85% of the third grade students achieving Level 3 or higher. The school’s mean score was 314 compared to the state’s 299, earning it a tie for first in the Pasco County Schools District.
General Research Comparing Charter and Traditional Schools
Nationwide, there seems to be a less significant impact and agreement on the performance between the two except in specific states, such as Illinois and Florida.
Researchers found that charter school students scored on average higher than their counterparts in traditional public schools, especially ELA.
While black and Hispanic students performed better in charter schools, the gap between white and minority students was smaller than in traditional public schools.
Researchers believe the results are due to the increased autonomy and flexibility in curriculum and teaching methods.
Another success factor may be charter school’s focus on personalized learning and smaller class sizes.
The Final Word
While charter schools only make up a small percentage of the total number of schools in Florida, they are growing rapidly and performing better on state testing.
Ultimately, deciding whether to send your child to a charter or traditional public school depends on your individual family needs and preferences.
But, in light of these results, it’s worth considering whether a charter school might be a good option for your child.