Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PDE Recalculation of Charter School Achievement Shows Significant Decline




PDE Recalculation of Charter School Achievement Shows Significant Decline 
From PSBA January 22, 2012

As required by the U.S Department of Education (U.S. DOE), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has recalculated the academic performance of charter schools for 2011-12, with the data showing a marked decline in the number of schools that met targets for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and an increase in those charter schools that are in warning, improvement or corrective action status.The recalculations show that only 28% of all charter schools met AYP, as compared to 49% determined under the calculations made last fall. 
The recalculations affected 144 brick and mortar charter schools, and 12 cyber charter schools.  According to the recalculations released in January:
  • There are 34 fewer charter schools in total met AYP, dropping from 77 (49%) to 43 (28%).
  • No cyber charter schools met AYP.
  • There are 7 fewer charter schools that received a “Making Progress” designation.
  • There are 27 more charter schools that received a “Warning” designation. 
  • There are 9 more charter schools in either “Corrective Action I or II” under the recalculations.
For all charter schools (brick & mortar and cyber combined):           
AYP Status
(156 schools)
January AYP Calculation, # of schools
Percentage of schools
September AYP Calculation, # of schools
Percentage of schools
Made AYP
43
28%
77
49%
Making Progress
8
5%
15
10%
Warning
61
39%
34
22%
School Improvement I
14
9%
10
6%
School Improvement II
5
3%
4
3%
Corrective Action I
4
3%
3
2%
Corrective Action II
21
13%
13
8%
For brick and mortar charter schools:           
AYP Status
(144 schools)
January AYP Calculation, # of schools
Percentage of schools
September AYP Calculation, # of schools
Percentage of schools
Made AYP
43
30%
76
53%
Making Progress
8
6%
13
9%
Warning
59
41%
33
23%
School Improvement I
12
8%
8
6%
School Improvement II
5
3%
4
3%
Corrective Action I
4
3%
3
2%
Corrective Action II
13
9%
7
5%
For cyber charter schools:           
AYP Status
(12 schools)
January AYP Calculation, # of schools
Percentage of schools
September AYP Calculation, # of schools
Percentage of schools
Made AYP
0
0%
1
8%
Making Progress
0
0%
2
17%
Warning
2
17%
1
8%
School Improvement I
2
17%
2
17%
School Improvement II
0
0%
0
0%
Corrective Action I
0
0%
0
0%
Corrective Action II
8
67%
6
50%
What happened last fall
      Last fall, PDE implemented a new way of determining whether charter schools have met student achievement milestones for AYP under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The new method was less stringent than the standards that must be met by traditional public schools, which until last fall were also applied to charter schools. Use of the more lenient method made it appear that more charter schools made AYP last year than was actually the case.
      PSBA had tracked the basis of the new approach to a very subtle change in the wording of Pennsylvania’s Accountability Workbook, the plan outlining the state’s NCLB accountability system that must be submitted to and approved by the U.S. DOE.  A request by PDE to calculate charter school AYP by the same method used for districts instead of traditional schools was submitted by the department to the U.S. DOE in late summer, but PDE went ahead with the calculation change without federal approval when it released 2012 AYP results in September.
      PSBA had submitted a formal letter of objection to the U.S. DOE in early October once it discovered the calculation change for charter schools had not been approved and was still under consideration. On Nov. 19, the U.S. DOE agreed with PSBA objection to charter school AYP and ordered PDE to recalculate results by end of fall semester.
      The recalculation more accurately reflects the performance of charter schools in meeting AYP for 2012, as compared with traditional public schools. Currently approved standards for individual Pennsylvania schools require that for a school to meet the academic performance component of AYP based on PSSA testing, the overall student body must meet the annual targets for the percentage of students scoring proficient or above, on both math and reading assessments. In addition, the necessary percentage of proficient students in each measurable subgroup (students grouped by race, ethnicity, English language learners, special needs, economically disadvantaged, etc.) must be attained in order for the school to make AYP.
    Under the new method PDE had applied to charter schools, the school’s overall student body did not have to meet PSSA proficiency percentage targets. Instead, a school’s student body was divided into up to three grade spans (elementary grades 3-5, middle grades 6-8, and high school grades 9-12), and if the students in at least one of those grade spans met proficiency percentage targets, including the subgroups within that span, the entire school was regarded as having met that component of AYP. In addition, PDE did not require that a single grade span meet targets in both math and reading, but awarded AYP designation if at least one grade span met targets in each subject.
    Under this methodology, the proficiency percentage of a charter school’s overall student body could decline, and yet PDE would still classify the charter school as having made AYP. There are a number of examples of such declines on PDE’s charter school AYP list issued in September. Another result is that the assessment performance of charter school students in the other grade spans simply did not matter for AYP purposes, allowing those children to be left behind without consequences for the school.
      It should be noted that the fact that a charter school’s entire student body and all subgroups did not meet statewide proficiency percentage targets does not necessarily mean that the charter school could not have made AYP under one or more of several alternative ways targets can be considered as having been met, such as the “safe harbor,” “confidence interval,” and “growth model” exceptions, as well as the option to combine data over multiple years. These alternative benchmarks must be calculated separately for each school, and the individual school data for doing that are not yet publicly available. Nonetheless, failure to meet the statewide proficiency targets makes it far less likely that the charter school would have made AYP without the advantage of the single subject grade span method.
      PSBA had expressed concerns that this attempt to artificially inflate the number of charter schools regarded as making AYP served to mask deficiencies in charter schools and deny families the information necessary to make informed choices, misleading them about the charter schools they are considering choosing, or that they already attend. It also had the effect of delaying crucial improvement and corrective action measures for a failing charter school, or prematurely ending those measures for a charter school that was already in improvement or corrective action status. These academic achievement issues should be critical considerations in the charter school renewal process.
      Historical data indicate that making AYP under NCLB has been a significant struggle for Pennsylvania charter schools, with a consistently lower percentage of charter schools making AYP than traditional public schools. As shown by the recalculation of AYP status for 2011-12, this trend is continuing.
NOTE: The recalculated AYP data can be found on PDE’s website by clicking here.



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