Washington’s Public Charter Schools on Path to Successful First Year Despite Threat of Closure Following State Supreme Court Ruling

For Immediate Release | February 8, 2016

Early Data Indicates Rapid Gains in Student Achievement

SEATTLE – Data released this week from several of Washington’s public charter schools reveals that the new schools are helping students make rapid improvements and working to close historic racial and income-based achievement gaps. Mid-year testing results indicate significant gains for students across multiple schools in both reading and math and show that many students previously performing behind national averages are now on track to meet grade-level standards. The data is especially striking when contrasted with data from a national study published last fall that highlighted Washington’s growing achievement gap crisis, noting that the state’s biggest city, Seattle, had some of the widest racial and income-based opportunity gaps in student achievement nationwide.

Despite early successes in serving low-income students and students of color, more than 1,100 students and their families remain in limbo as state legislators debate whether to keep Washington’s public charter schools open or allow them to be shut down.

“This new data is more than just promising—it proves that Washington’s public charter schools are working by providing high-quality educational opportunities for historically underserved populations,” said Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) CEO Thomas Franta. “Washington’s public charter schools are committed to closing opportunity gaps by providing innovative and personalized learning experiences for diverse students, the majority of whom come from historically underserved communities, and who are at risk of being left behind by traditional education models. Now, more than ever, it is clear that the Legislature must not turn its back on quality schools and the children they serve.”

Key data points:

  • Serving historically underserved populations: More than 70 percent of students attending public charter schools in Washington are students of color and more than two-thirds come from low-income households.
  • Most public charter school students started behind: Per baseline assessment data, a majority of students currently enrolled in the nine schools that started the 2015-16 school year designated as public charter schools entered performing below grade level.
  • On track for one and a half years of growth in reading at Excel: At Excel Public Charter School in Kent, sixth-graders entered, on average, two grade levels behind in reading, while seventh-graders entered, on average, three grade levels behind in reading. Interim assessment data reveals that Excel students are on track to make one and a half years of growth in reading this school year, while students are all simultaneously learning to code and playing an instrument in the school’s orchestra.
  • Rapid reading gains at Spokane International Academy: At Spokane International Academy (SIA), only two percent of kindergarten and first-grade students entered the school year on track to read at grade level by the end of the school year, according to the Lexia adaptive reading program. Today, more than 60 percent are on track to meet or exceed this goal. Based on the school’s remarkable progress, Lexia selected SIA as a national model of implementation.
  • One to two years of growth in reading in three months at Destiny: At Destiny Middle School in Tacoma, 80 percent of students started the school year reading below grade level, according to the nationally-normed Scholastic Reading Inventory. In just three months, more than a third of students grew one to two grade levels in reading and met their annual growth goal, surpassing the national average.
  • One year of reading growth in half a year at Rainier Prep: At Rainier Prep in Highline, students showed one year of progress in reading in just half a year, according to the STAR Reading Test, the most widely used reading assessment in K-12 schools. This means Rainier Prep students are on pace for the equivalent of two grade levels of growth in reading in one year.
  • Summit Sierra students outperformed their national peers in reading and math: Per nationally-normed Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments, ninth-graders at Sierra in Seattle outperformed the national average in reading by 40 percent, and more than doubled the national average in math. This is despite the fact that nearly half of Sierra students came into school on average three and a half years below grade level in both reading and math.
  • Summit Olympus students outperformed their national peers in reading and math: Per nationally-normed MAP assessments, ninth-graders at Olympus in Tacoma more than doubled the national average growth in reading, and more than tripled the national average of growth in math. Olympus is among the top third of schools in the nation in terms of math growth. This is despite the fact that nearly half of Summit Olympus students came into school on average four years below grade level in both reading and math.

As a best practice, Washington’s public charter schools administered interim assessments to measure student growth to date. Results from these nationally recognized assessments are cited in this release. As of February 4, data is still being collected from some schools. A full release of data on Washington’s public charter schools is forthcoming, pending completion of assessments at the remaining schools. Nationwide, between 2010 and 2013, fifteen of sixteen independent studies found that students attending public charters school perform better academically than their peers attending traditional public schools.

About Washington’s Public Charter Schools
Washington’s public charter schools are helping to close the education equity gap. More than two-thirds of students in public charter schools are from low-income families and more than 70 percent are students of color. Allowing public charter schools to close down will disproportionately affect families who turned to charters because their child’s needs were not being met.

The state’s existing public charter schools were created after voters passed a law in 2012 calling for more public school options for Washington families. 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.

About the Effort to Keep Schools Open
Act Now for Washington Students is a student- and parent-led coalition founded in partnership with Democrats for Education Reform, the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children and the Washington State Charter Schools Association, and is dedicated to ensuring that parent, student and voter voices are elevated in the fight to keep public schools open and serving students.