Charter report: Commission schools have wide gap in performance

A wide academic performance gap persists between the top and bottom public charter schools supervised by the state, according to a performance report released in January. 

The report also found that a majority of those public charter schools last year performed as well or better academically than their benchmark.

The 2022 Idaho Public Charter School Commission report released in January is the second of its kind and is used by the seven-member commission to monitor the 71 public charters authorized by the commission and ensure the nearly 29,000 students’ interests and needs are being met. The report also is designed to help parents make school choice decisions. The commission was established in 2004 when public charter schools were launched in Idaho. Commissioners are appointed by state leaders to serve four-year terms. They decide to approve, renew or close charters. The commission next reviews the performance of 17 schools at its February meeting. 

“I am reassured by the fact that the data does not reveal anything surprising. That tells me that what the data is measuring aligns with our statutory obligations and with the everyday work of our team,” said Jenn Thompson, Idaho’s charter commission director. 

Each charter school sets a proficiency benchmark that compares its academic performance to the district where the school is located. According to the January report, 82% percent of charters met or exceed their benchmarks in English language arts and 79% did so in math.

“We know which schools are struggling and which are excelling, and I think the report does a good job of relating that to the public,” said Thompson. 

When a school performs below its contractual benchmarks, the report said, the commission must consider whether the school’s continued operations are a good investment of taxpayer dollars.

“This report helps us identify which schools are most in need of academic, operational, or financial improvement.  We value the opportunity to educate and inform a board before we have to oversee and enforce any severe consequences,” Thompson explained.

Thompson and her staff help school leaders and school board members access the resources, training and guidance needed to find solutions or navigate complex issues like facility regulations, safety laws and obtaining accreditation.

The following graph illustrates the wide academic performance gap between commission-guided charter schools North Idaho STEM and Peace Valley and their scores compared to state goals and statewide averages in math, ELA and reading.

 

English language arts proficiency

Eighty-two percent of the 55 charters performed as well or better than their comparison district. Twenty-five percent also exceeded statewide goals. The best five schools are listed below:

  • Coeur D’Alene Charter Academy
  • North Idaho STEM Charter Academy
  • Compass Public Charter School
  • North Star Charter School
  • Legacy Charter School

Three out of the four alternative schools and nine out of 10 virtual schools exceeded their performance goals. One underperforming school, Another Choice Charter, closed in 2022. The three alternative schools are listed below:

  • Insight School of Idaho
  • Richard McKenna Online Alternative
  • Idaho Connects Online Alternative School 

Math proficiency

Seventy-nine percent performed as well or better than their comparison district. Eighteen percent also exceeded statewide goals. The top five scoring schools are listed below:

  • North Idaho STEM Charter Academy
  • Coeur D’Alene Charter Academy
  • North Star Charter School
  • Legacy Charter School
  • Victory Charter School

Two of four alternative schools and seven out of 10 virtual charter schools met or exceeded their goals. The best five virtual schools are listed below:

  • Idaho Virtual Academy
  • Inspire Virtual Charter Academy
  • Idaho Technical Career Academy
  • Idaho Connects Online School
  • Insight School of Idaho

Idaho Reading Indicator

The IRI is an early literacy assessment for K-3 students. Twenty-seven out of 43 elementary schools met or exceeded their proficiency standard. The best five schools are listed below:

  • North Idaho STEM Charter Academy
  • Compass Public Charter School
  • Taylor’s Crossing Charter School
  • North Star Charter School
  • Rolling Hills Public Charter

Nine schools did not meet the minimum standard but demonstrated progress by increasing the percentage of students reading at grade level by at least 10% between the fall and spring testing periods. Seven schools failed to meet the standard.

Reading scores at six schools decreased between the fall and spring, which the report described as “ineffective reading instruction.”

Look for an EdNews article this month with detailed reporting about schools with compliance or academic deficiencies, and the 17 schools that will seek contract renewal next month.

EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report.

Darren Svan

About Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan is based in the Treasure Valley and has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected]

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