(The Center Square) – Post-pandemic test scores of Colorado’s charter schools appear to show creativity and adaptability contributed to outperforming district-managed schools, according to a report from the Keystone Policy Center.
“Charter schools tended to earn higher ratings on the state accountability system in 2022, they saw larger proportions of students meeting or exceeding grade-level expectations and higher academic growth, particularly for low-income students, when compared to district-managed schools,” the report concluded. “Why this is the case merits closer examination, but flexibility and nimbleness likely played a significant role, allowing charters to pivot more quickly.”
“Back To School: Colorado’s Charter School Performance 2022” examined data and provided analysis on how students in charter schools performed compared to students in district-managed schools as the state emerged from pandemic shutdowns and interruptions to in-person learning. Approximately 15% or 134,000 of Colorado’s public school students – kindergarten through high school – attend a charter school, according to the report. There are 265 charter schools in Colorado.
The Colorado Measures of Academic Success – statewide student testing – and PSAT/SAT results from spring testing were analyzed. The report stated the information was the “first data-rich information that allows us to quantify the impact” of the pandemic challenges on Colorado students.
The report found 85% of charter school students attended a school with the highest rating of four levels on the “School Performance Framework.” Only 66% of district-managed students attended a school with the rating.
The performance gap was wider when looking only at schools serving large numbers of students from low-income families. Two-thirds of charter school students attending a school where at least 75% of students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were enrolled at a high-performing school, compared to 19% of students in high-poverty district-managed schools.
Charter school students in grades three through eight outperformed their peers in district-managed schools on both literacy and math tests. However, less than half of all students, regardless of school governance, are meeting grade level expectations in either subject.
“Fewer students today are meeting grade level expectations in critical academic areas than they were in 2019, demonstrating beyond a doubt that the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and state and district responses to it exacted a heavy toll on students,” the report stated. “However, charter schools in Colorado appear to have weathered the pandemic storm better than district-managed schools and have shown signs of bouncing back by more effectively supported CO student learning.”
The report noted wide variation in performance of charter schools throughout the state, along with student demographics. It found less than 40% of charter high school students in the city of Aurora are at or above benchmarks in literacy compared to more than 80% in Jefferson County.