Smarter Balanced Assessment Results Show Promising Gains For Students at Washington’s First-Year Charter Public Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 25, 2016
CONTACT: Maggie Meyers at (724) 263-9826

As Schools Head into Second Year, Advocates Look Forward to Tracking Another Year of Academic Gains

SEATTLE, Wash. – Results of the Smarter Balanced assessments for the 2015-16 school year,released last week by the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), show promising growth among Washington’s charter public school students. Smarter Balanced tests were introduced across the nation in 2014, in order to better measure students’ progress toward college and career readiness in English language arts/literacy and math. Public school students in Washington take the tests every year from grades 3-8, and again either in 10th or 11th grade. Scores are used to evaluate student growth, as well as school and teacher performance.[1]

Statewide, Washington’s public school students showed up to three percentage points of improvement across all grades and subjects tested, as compared to the previous school year. In particular, students in Washington’s charter public schools made significant and measurable gains during their schools’ inaugural year.

6th Grade SBAC Results

While not all of Washington’s charter public school students took the SBAC this year, highlights from the assessment results include:

  • At Rainier Prep, 81.8 percent of sixth graders met or exceeded the grade-level achievement standard on the English Language Arts (ELA) assessment, surpassing the average score for their local district by 37.3 percent and for the state by 25.3 percent. On the math assessment, 78.2 percent of Rainier Prep sixth graders met or exceed the grade-level achievement standard and surpassed the average score for their local district by 40.8 percent and for the state by 30.2 percent. Eighty percent of Rainier Prep’s students qualified for free and reduced-price school meals in 2015-16; this is almost double the state average and is 15 percent higher than the percentage for the district in which Rainier Prep is geographically located. Furthermore, 18.5 percent of Rainier Prep’s founding students identified as Transitional Bilingual.
  • At Spokane International Academy (SIA), 80.3 percent of sixth graders met or exceeded the grade-level achievement standard, surpassing the average score for their local district by 25.3 percent and for the state by 23.8 percent in ELA. In math, 72.5 percent of SIA sixth graders met or exceeded the grade-level achievement standard and surpassed the average score for their local district by 27 percent and for the state by 24.5 percent. The percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals at SIA is higher than the state average and on par with the school’s local district.
  • In 2015-16, Excel Public Charter School served higher percentages of students eligible to receive special education services (17 percent), students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals (52 percent) and English language learners (26 percent) than the state, on average.[2]  Smarter Balanced results for Excel’s sixth graders were on par with the local district’s average score in ELA, and surpassed the local district’s average score in math by 8.8 percent. Excel’s seventh graders surpassed the district’s average score by 7.5 percent in ELA and by 8.4 percent in Math. For both sixth and seventh grades, Excel students outperformed the average scores for the state on both math and ELA assessments.

In response to the release of the 2015-16 Smarter Balanced assessments, Washington State Charter Schools Association CEO Tom Franta said: “These remarkable strides toward college readiness are proof points for our schools, and for the hundreds of advocates who fought to reinstate the charter public school law in Washington. Our collective goal is to ensure that historically underserved communities gain and maintain access to the high-quality public schools their children deserve. While these assessments can capture only a portion of the skills students are learning at Washington’s charter public schools, WA Charters would like to congratulate and celebrate students and teachers for their hard work and impressive results. As our state’s first eight charter public schools head into their second year of operation – with many back to school this month – we look forward to another year of growing.”

Washington’s eight public charters are expanding in the 2016-17 school year, with each school serving more grade levels and students than in their inaugural year. In addition, three new schools are slated to open their doors in Fall 2017.

About Washington’s Public Charter Schools

Charter schools are a type of public school, approved and overseen by a state or district authorizer. Like all public schools, they do not charge tuition, they are open to all students, and they are publicly funded. However, charter public schools are held more accountable for showing improved student achievement. In exchange for greater accountability, teachers and principals are given more flexibility to customize their teaching methods and curriculum to improve student learning.

Washington’s charter public schools are helping to close the education equity gap. More than 67 percent of charter public school students in Washington are students of color, as compared to 43 percent statewide. Two-thirds of charter public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, as compared to 45 percent statewide. At four of Washington’s charter public schools, this number exceeds 70 percent.

In some communities, traditional public schools are meeting the needs of local students. But in other communities – particularly communities of color that struggle with poverty – they are not. In Washington, African American, Latino and Native American students are scoring between 15-20 percent lower on state assessments. According to mid-year assessment results, students at Washington’s charter public schools are making impressive gains in reading and math.

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[1] Based on grade level requirements, not all charter public schools used the Smarter Balanced exam for the 2015-16 school year.

[2] 52 percent of students who attended Excel Public Charter School in 2015-16 qualified for free and reduced-price school meals. This percentage was underreported on the OSPI Washington State Report Card, but WA Charters is working with OSPI to publish a correction.

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