Charters Top Traditional Schools on Test; Head of Charter School Group Says It's a Victory for Innovative Education

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Byline: Adam Kealoha Causey

Florida charter school students performed better on state standardized tests than those who attend traditional public schools, according to a report issued Tuesday, renewing questions about what role school choice plays in academic achievement.

The head of a group that runs charters on 33 Florida campuses, including three in Duval County, said the study is a victory for innovative education. Another advocate took a more cautious view, saying schools should be examined individually and not in one swath, the way the Department of Education grouped them.

The document, which compiled data from the 2010-11 school year, makes 168 comparisons based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results.

Among its findings:

- More charter students performed at level 3 or higher for certain FCAT subjects in their grade levels than their traditional school counterparts in 50 of 54 categories.

- White students outpaced black and Hispanic students in reading, math and science in charters and traditional schools, but the achievement gap was smaller for charters in 16 of 18 comparisons.

- Charter students had higher average learning gains in 79 of 96 FCAT comparisons.

Fort Lauderdale-based Charter Schools USA operates Duval Charter School at Baymeadows and Duval Charter School at Arlington, both for kindergarten through eighth-grade students, and Duval Charter High School at Baymeadows.

Charter Schools USA President Jon Hage said the report should help charters be seen for what they are: sites with more management flexibility that ultimately are more accountable. He said he hopes the results will help during next year's legislative session. …