Across the Street column: Colorado charter schools outperform public schools across the nation
May 7, 2018
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Have you wondered how students in Colorado compare academically to students in other states? There is a nationally recognized test given every other year to fourth- and eighth-graders that has been around since 1969. It's a snapshot of how our students are achieving in school. The test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report, is known as the Nation's Report Card. It uses a carefully designed sampling procedure that allows the assessment to be representative of the geographical, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of the schools and students in the United States. The recently released 2017 scores show that the United States as a whole hasn't improved significantly over time.
NAEP is the most extensive continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation's students know and can do in subjects such as mathematics, reading, science and writing. It's not used to isolate school district or individual student achievement but is used to compare state-to-state achievement. Colorado test scores have remained relatively stagnant; however an interesting statistic emerged with the recent NAEP test results for Colorado eighth-graders.
Luke Ragland, president of ReadyCO, an organization working to improve education in Colorado, believes that parents should be able to send their children to a public school of their choice. Public charter schools are a popular choice for many parents and are part of the public school system. While few options are available in rural Colorado, there are some, including 32 charter schools operating in the area that I represent, the 3rd Congressional District. Colorado charter schools serve a higher percentage of students of color and English language learners (ELL) than Colorado's traditional public schools and receive less funding on average than Colorado's traditional public schools.
Ragland studied the recent NAEP scores of eighth-graders in Colorado charter schools. He then compared these charter school scores to test scores of eighth-grade students in public schools throughout the U.S. The result was that Colorado's public charter schools outperform the public schools across the nation in both eighth-grade math and eighth-grade reading.
Colorado charter schools outperformed all public schools in the nation. However, all of Colorado eighth-graders also deserve a "high five."
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If we only look at all of Colorado's eighth-graders, including charters, they come in at 17th place, out of 50 states in math and eighth place in reading. National averages are 24th and 25th respectively. Congratulations to all eighth-grade students, teachers and parents.
Joyce Rankin is a member of the State Board of Education. "Across the Street" will appear monthly.
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