Pennsylvania charter schools among the worst in the US, report finds

Desks are arranged in a classroom at Panther Valley Elementary School, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Nesquehoning, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

By Sean Kitchen

November 21, 2023

Pennsylvania is home to some of the lowest performing charter schools in the country, according to a new report. The report used reading and math scores to come up with their results.

Pennsylvania charter schools rank amongst the lowest performing in the country, according to a new report published by Education Next, an education journal that promotes and examines the changes happening in the county’s education system.

The report is the first-ever state ranking of charter student performance, based on data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which provides information about student achievement and learning experiences in different subjects.

Minnesota was the first state to pass a charter school law in 1991 and since then, 45 additional states and Washington D.C. passed laws establishing charter schools. Pennsylvania passed its charter school law in 1997 and there are currently 165 brick-and-mortar charter schools and 14 cyber charter schools throughout the commonwealth.

Nationwide, there are now nearly 7,800 charter schools that enroll close to 3.7 million students, representing 7.5% of students across the country.

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star was one of the first outlets to highlight this report, which analyzed charter school student performance from 35 states and Washington D.C. Pennsylvania ranked 31st, placing the commonwealth in the bottom five with Oregon, Michigan, Tennessee, and Hawaii.

The rankings are based on how 4th and 8th grade charter school students are performing in reading and math.

The report also found large discrepancies in reading and math scores between white students and their Black and Hispanic counterparts.

Pennsylvania ranks 20th in the country and has the seventh-largest gap between white and Black charter school students’ scores. The commonwealth ranks 29th in the country and has the second largest gap between white and Hispanic charter school students’ scores.

The Capital-Star noted that education watchdogs and advocates have been critical of Pennsylvania’s charter school law. It hasn’t been updated since 2002 and does little to hold charter schools accountable.

According to Chalkbeat, charter school opponents believe that they are funneling money away from underfunded public schools and are rife with mismanagement and corruption.

A significant number of charter schools don’t survive 10 years after they open. More than 25% of charter schools close within five years and 40% close within 10 years, and 16 charter schools closed in Philadelphia between 2013 and 2020, according to the Network for Public Education.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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