City crows about great improvement in charter school test results

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Critics question criteria and increasing gulf
between the haves and have-nots

By Nico Simino

As recent test results show that public school students in grades 3-8 have shown an improvement in math and English scores, New York City charter school students have done even better than their public school counterparts.
Gains made by the charter schools have dramatically improved in both English and math: math scores increased to 72 percent from 68.5 percent last year, and 51.5 percent in English scores, up 7 points from last year.

“What we’re seeing and what we’ve seen all along is that the longer school day and longer school year that characterizes charter schools, as well as simply a focus on instruction and the sense of having a school-wide culture that everyone buys into, results in these kinds of achievement scores,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center.

The boost in test scores will only add weight to the argument for more charter schools, which has received push back from the teachers union.

“The good news: this modest increase in scores — particularly in the middle schools — is a tribute to the students and teachers who worked hard last year. The bad news: the achievement gap in reading is not closing. Not only do black and Hispanic students still lag well behind whites and Asians, but in the ELA results the gap actually widened this year,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the UFT.

Many of the new charter schools in the city have been in low-income neighborhoods and underachieving districts, which usually house a disproportionate amount of black and Latino students.

Some of the criticism of why charter schools scored higher is that less students took the test from charter schools as opposed to public school students. About 30,000 charter school students took the tests and around 400,000 students from public schools.

Another criticism is that charter schools enroll far less special-needs students than public schools do, which brings down the average for public schools.