Report: Florida charter school students outperforming district school peers

charter schools FRL kidsFlorida charter school students are out-scoring and out-gaining their traditional public school counterparts in more than 150 comparisons on the state’s standardized tests, according to a state-mandated report released by the Florida Department of Education Thursday.

In 156 of 177 comparisons, charter school students scored higher, made bigger gains and had smaller achievement gaps.

The department compared the two sectors by looking at students overall, and by comparing white, black, Hispanic, high-poverty and disabled students, as well as English language learners. It broke down results into elementary, middle and high school categories.

The state based its analysis on more than three million scores from last year’s reading, math and science FCAT tests and Algebra I end-of-course exam. Only students who attended traditional public schools or charter schools for the entire year were included. The report did not break down results by district.

Charters did particularly well with low-income middle schoolers. In reading, 55.6 percent of FRL kids in charter middle schools scored at grade level or above, compared to 45.8 percent for their traditional school peers. In math, the corresponding percentages were 54.8 and 44.5.

DOE press release here. Initial coverage from Gradebook and South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Avatar photo

BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at


You know I am ignore a lot of stuff and distill all my questions down to one. Why were 159 charter schools not included in the study?

People who want charter schools should ask themselves do they want their answer to be right or do they want the right answer. It if is the later then they should want the state to get things right.

Ron Matus

Hi Chris, I’m not following you. Can you please elaborate?

Well Ronnie,

Answer the man. Why were over a 150 charter schools left out of the evaluation? SOS for the education wreckers.

The study only tracked 359 out of 518 charter schools. If I am going to buy this study I have to know why 159 schools were left out.

I would like the whole picture not just what they are selling.

Ron Matus

Hi Chris, Hi Mike. I’m afraid I’m still not following you. I’m not seeing where the study says it tracked the scores of students in only 359 of 518 charter schools. It notes that 359 charter schools received grades last year. But that doesn’t mean that charter school students in non-graded charter schools were not counted in the report. It’s my understanding that if students were enrolled in a charter school for the full year, whether the school was graded or not, and they took FCATs and/or the Algebra I EOC, then their scores were included.

Thanks Ron, how would we find out for sure. I don’t want to bash the state or charter schools unless they deserve it. I have read the study twice now and the only thing I can say for sure is 150+ charter schools didn’t recieve grades but I can’t tell if thier kids are in the mix or not.

I don’t want my answer to be right, I want the right answer.

Ron Matus

Hi Chris, I touched base with DOE after I saw your note, because I wanted to be sure too. And my understanding of it is correct: All charter school kids are included in the report, including those in charters that didn’t receive grades.

Debbie Shaw

Hi Ron,
Maybe you can help figure this out. I’m curious, too.

The report that came out stating that Charter schools outperform traditional schools said that it was using the 359 Graded schools from 2011-2012.

The DOE claims there were 518 Charter schools for 2011-2012.

So I decided to see why such a disparity in numbers.

Here’s what I was able to ascertain by looking at the Excel
files provided by the DOE.

There were 359 listed Charter Elem. & Middle Schools
There were 47 listed High School Charters.
That equals 406…
Of those, 36 were ungraded (assuming they had less than 2 years of
4 were listed as Incompletes (less than 90% school population tested);

A separate number, 18, had moved to School Improvement Ratings rather
than regular school grades.

So counting all the schools listed, there were 424 Charter schools; yet
the DOE said there were 518 Charters in 2011-2012.

Hi Debbie, thanks for reading and for commenting. I don’t know the answer to your question. Can you tell me which spreadsheets you are looking at? Also, have you contacted DOE with your question? The phone number for their communications office is 850-245-0413. For what it’s worth, my email is and my office number is 813-402-0207. Contact me anytime.

Debbie Shaw

Absolutely, Ron. Go to From there, you can download the Excel files named “Detailed Information on Non-High Schools,” “Detailed Information on High Schools” and “School Improvement Ratings.” I re-sorted the spreadsheets to list Charters first so I could get an accurate number from each list.

But while we are on the subject… I have always been extremely pleased with how easy it is to gather information on schools in Florida in the past. This year, however, is the first time in my recollection that the database has not been updated for LAST YEAR’s scores. In other words, it is quite difficult to look at the data on a spreadsheet that is pages and pages long. Why hasn’t the database been updated for 2011-2012?

Hi Debbie. According to DOE, charter schools that don’t have enough students to generate a school grade, but do have at least 10 students with two years worth of FCAT data, would have their test data reported on the school grades site. But charter schools that do NOT have at least 10 students with two years worth of FCAT data would NOT have that data reported on the school grades site. I didn’t ask why – I fear I’m running out of time here 🙂 – but I suspect it has something to do with student confidentiality, since public reporting of numbers that small might expose a particular student’s results. (I often heard this argument from school districts when I was a traditional reporter trying to get additional data.) In any event, for purposes of the charter school performance report, the results of all tested charter school students were included, whether their school was graded or not, or included on the school grades site or not, as long as the student was in a charter the entire year. (The same goes for traditional public school students.)

I didn’t ask about the updating of scores, and I’m sorry I didn’t have time to. I agree with you 100 percent. The site has been user friendly in the past but the spreadsheets for last year’s results are clunky to work with. It is odd that DOE hasn’t remedied that.

Debbie Shaw

Interesting, I guess. I’m afraid that I’ve pretty much run out of time on this as well. To me, the fact that there may be that many schools (almost 100) with fewer than 10 students (with two years of data) is worthy of a story in and of itself. Maybe an Education reporter will pick up on it.

I also noticed that the report listed 4,000 more Charter School students for 2011-2012 than the DOE lists in their Charter School Enrollment (also for 2011-2012) that was published just a few weeks ago.

I’m sure there’s a logical answer to that as well.

Thanks for your response.

Comments are closed.