Charter School Sustainability or Student Achievement?

Most charter schools promise higher test scores than conventional public schools, and Rocketship charters have been the loudest proponent of a test driven approach. Let’s set aside for a moment the problems with the test and the problems caused by teaching to the test and excluding other educational experiences. Charter schools would have us measure their success by looking at API (Academic Performance Index) scores. So how does Rocketship do? The answer is poorly.

At a recent charter workshop held at the Santa Clara Office of Education, board members said that they should consider the sustainability of a charter school in their approval process. The largest charter school network in Santa Clara County is Rocketship Education, and the county Board must be impressed by their sustainability because there will eventually be twenty Rocketship schools in the county. This certainly ensures sustainable growth for Rocketship’s national offices. What this does not ensure is sustainable growth in student learning for the students attending Rocketship schools.

Until this year, California used the STAR test (Standardized Test and Reporting) to measure student learning. Students’ scores are used to create a school’s or district’s API . In 2008, Rocketship Mateo Sheedy school tested its first set of second graders and they scored a commendable mean score of 409 (out of 600) in English. However, by 5th grade, this same class had a score of 376 in English, a drop of 33 points. In math, this class dropped ten points over the same time period.

At Rocketship Si Se Puede school, the results fluctuated. The first set of second graders (now fifth graders) dropped 18 points in English by their fourth grade year and increased their scores in math by 26 points.

At Rocketship Los Suenos, 2nd graders in 2011 scored 361 in English and 416 in math. As 3rd graders in 2012, these students scored 304 in English and 379 in math.

These drops overtime do have some effect on API. In fact, all Rocketship schools whose students took the STAR test in both 2011 and 2012 saw a decline in scores. If the County Board of Education is judging the performance of Rocketship on student test scores, these are nothing to shout about. In fact, it’s more cause for concern than anything else.

The Santa Clara County Board of Education seems to think that sustainable growth means continually opening charter schools no matter what. Our students would benefit more from schools that show sustainable growth in student learning.

Source: CA Dept of Education http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2012/


This article originally appeared on The South Bay Labor Council blog.