July 28, 2023

Thomas Courtney: Recent Test Scores Should Concern Parents Considering San Diego Charter Schools

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Teacher Thomas Courtney shares some troubling statistics about charters in San Diego. Of course, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of big standardized test scores, but if you are among the many folks who play by those rules, this is bad news.

Let’s start with English language arts since reading is fundamental in any school.

If you are a student considered “economically disadvantaged” in the San Diego Unified School District, you’ve still got a decent chance of being grade level proficient in a public school at 69.23%. If however, you are at a San Diego Unified charter it’s not a very safe bet. Only 36.46%, of economically disadvantaged students made grade level at San Diego charters this year.

But perhaps, as a middle-class parent, you are less concerned about English. After all, the one truism of test scores throughout history is that students not disadvantaged economically perform better on state exams, especially in reading.

Unfortunately for you, the data is still very worrisome. While 86.95% of public school kids deemed financially secure were at grade level or higher, at charter schools in 2022 it’s a very different story indeed. Only 57.23% of economically stable kids can read at or above grade level in San Diego charter schools.

And what about math? Students clearly took a hit across the board in San Diego Unified as a whole. But if you are an economically disadvantaged family, where would you rather have your child? In a public school where 41.67% of the kids are at math grade level or at a charter school where just 18.35% can do math at grade level?

By now you may be able to predict what the outcomes were for affluent and middle-class students in San Diego Unified Schools for math too. In SDUSD public schools, 76.9% of the kids from financially secure homes are grade level proficient or higher in mathematics. But at SDUSD charters it’s 43.21%.

If this data feels overwhelming, it’s possibly because it is.

Many of my colleagues and I have known and seen these contrasts for years. Often, I receive students mid-year from charter schools who are very far behind in both math and reading. When I meet with parents following diagnostic assessments, often I hear things like, “I had no idea!” Or, “But he was doing so well at the other school!”

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