What charter school rankings really show

New school rankings show Leflore Legacy Academy Charter School in Greenwood, in only its second year of operation, was rated higher overall than any middle or junior high school in the Greenwood-Leflore district in the school year that ended in May.

Clarksdale Collegiate Charter School had a higher level of reading proficiency than any school in the Clarksdale district.

Both schools posted strong numbers for growth in reading, with each scoring better than all but one school in the respective districts where they are located, including growth among students in the bottom 25 percent academically.

And yet both schools were assigned a grade of D on an A-F grading scale. As for the districts in which these schools are located, Greenwood-Leflore received a D, and the Clarksdale district received an F. (Charters are not governed by the districts, so their grades are not included in the district scores.)

Smilow Prep Charter School, was the fourth-highest rated middle school in Jackson, while Reimagine Prep was fifth among the 13 middle schools in the city. Midtown Public Charter School was tenth. The three charter schools in Jackson that are middle schools ranked 4, 6, and 8 in reading proficiency.

Among the eight charter schools now open in Mississippi, one received a B, two received a C, three, including the two mentioned above, received a D, and two school are too new to get a grade. When you consider that Mississippi’s charter law requires charters to open in failing districts and charters (unlike magnet schools) cannot restrict enrollment by requiring students to pass an admissions test, I’m really proud of their progress. Many of these charters are welcoming students who arrive two grade levels behind and these innovative schools are helping these students catch up and achieve their full potential.

Be aware that we have heard some charter school opponents say charters are performing among the worst schools in the state. This fallacy comes from the initial chart published by the Mississippi Department of Education, which listed only school districts. Since charter schools are treated as districts as well as schools, they were on that list.

Regular districts have high schools, which means they have a maximum point total of 1000, while charters have a maximum of 700 points. Therefore, a charter school will always be at the bottom of the points list unless it is a high school, and currently, there are no charter high schools. (The state Charter School Authorizer Board last week rejected an application for a high school from Clarksdale Collegiate – yes, the school mentioned above that is doing better in many respects than other schools in Clarksdale. I’ve expressed my frustration with that decision previously, so I won’t belabor that here.)

What’s telling with Mississippi’s small sector of charter schools is the larger accountability built in: parental satisfaction. Our friends at Mississippi First recently conducted a survey and found tremendous satisfaction among parents:

  • 96.3% of charter school parents support charter schools in their communities
  • 84.5% of charter school parents believe opening a charter school has affected access to high-quality schools positively
  • 98.1% of charter school parents would recommend their child’s school to other families.

No one is required to attend a charter school. It is an option that parents can seek out if they desire. And if they are not happy with the school, they can freely leave and return to a district school or another charter school. But that’s not what we’ve seen. Parents are voting with their feet and loving the charter school experience.

Parents want options. And when they’ve been made available, parents are taking advantage of those options.

Do you support education freedom for families in Mississippi?