Annual test scores for New York City have been released by the state Education Department showing Success Academy, the largest charter school network in the city, outperforming traditional public schools.
Test results found 68% of students at the academy to be proficient in English in comparison to only 30% of students in the city overall. In math, the results were even higher, with 93% of students at Success Academy testing proficient while 35% of students across the city showed similar results.
Results for other city schools show marked improvement, but on average, these schools still fall behind the rest of the state. According to test results, 35.2% of city students were proficient in English. These scores are up 1 percentage point in math and 2 percentage points in English from 2014 test scores.
Across the state, scores were higher than in 2014, with 38.1% of students testing proficient in math compared to 36.2% in 2014, and 31.3% testing proficient in English, compared to 30.6% in 2014. “I’m pleased to say that our numbers are moving in the right direction,” said state Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia.
Meanwhile, the state teachers union noted that the results may be skewed due to the high opt-out rate, which they argued made it difficult to determine whether students had actually improved.
“It would be a huge mistake to read anything into these test results. Whether they’re up or down, they tell us virtually nothing meaningful about students or their teachers,” said union president Karen Magee.
In all, 1,282 public schools in the city were tested. Of those, 12 are part of the Success Academy network, making up 1% of all schools tested. According to the results, 5 of the 10 schools that scored highest in math were Success Academy schools, and all 12 of the charter schools ranked in the top 40 for math.
However, statistician Aaron Brown noted that the problem with the scoring system is that “the chosen metric is so close to 100 percent for top schools that a big difference in ranking can represent a small difference in kids.” In an effort to determine what would happen if children from Success Academy schools attended one of the top 5% of other schools in the city, Brown took a random sample of 3,065 children and compared their test results to 3,065 children from Success Academy.
What Brown found was that 310 fewer children would have scored a 4, the top score, on the exam. In fact, 203 additional children would have scored a 1 or a 2, which are failing grades, reports Jim Epstein for Reason.
Success Academy students are chosen through a random lottery selection. Typically, students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, as 77% of the attending students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Of the charter schools students who participated in the test, 92% were black or Hispanic.