When more students enroll in non-profit charter schools, what happens to the students who remain enrolled in traditional schools?
This is one of the most contentious questions in public education right now.
Past research has shown that increased public charter school growth does not negatively affect the academic performance of traditional public schools.
But much of this research covers geographies that don’t have that many charter schools.
An open question is whether the effects of charter growth on traditional public schools will change as charters serve more and more kids in a district.
In Newark, nearly 40% of students attend charter schools.
At this scale, non-profit schools have given families a lot more choices to find a good fit for their children.
But they have also put real academic and financial pressure on the traditional system.
So what’s been the effect?
New Jersey ranks all of its school districts based on academic performance. The state runs a couple of different types of analysis: ranking all district statewide and then also ranking districts based on those that have similar levels of poverty.
See below for the results for Newark citywide, Newark traditional system, and the Newark charter sector.
Newark’s Overall City Rank is Rising
Newark has shot up from the 39th percentile to the 78th percentile amongst the thirty-seven highest poverty districts in New Jersey,
In the 100 highest poverty districts, Newark has moved from the 18th percentile to the 50th percentile.
When comes to all districts, Newark performs poorly, though it has made major progress in the past five years. This progress comes after a fairly long period of stagnation.
Newark Traditional Public Schools are Improving at a Healthy Rate
Newark’s traditional schools have made major improvements over the past five years, after being fairly flat in previous years.
When it comes to the highest poverty cities, the district’s traditional public schools have moved from the 20th percentile to at or above the 50th percentile.
They also have also seen gains the other performance rankings, though overall gains when compared to all New Jersey districts are fairly modest.
Newark Charter Schools have Nearly Caught the State Average
Newark charters are achieving at very very high levels.
Taken together, they are the top performing high-poverty district in the state.
Even more impressive, Newark’s charters have risen to nearly the 50th percentile in the entire state of New Jersey.
New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the nation.
Students in Newark charter schools, who are mostly children of color living in poverty, are performing as well as their much more affluent and privileged peers.
Still an Open National Question
Newark is just one of many cities that are now home to large non-profit public school sectors.
We are working with researchers to study city level and sector level effects across many of these cities.
In the fall, I hope to have a more comprehensive write-up on these results.
But, for now, it’s good to see all schools rising in Newark.
Hopefully these results will hold true across many more cities.