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Group Says Charter Schools Key to Improved NECAP Scores

Thursday, February 10, 2011

 

The Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN) yesterday released an analysis of RI's new student test scores, revealing that students in public charter schools have shown the greatest improvement over the past three years. The group says the data shows that Governor Chafee's desire to take a "thoughtful pause" on public charter schools may be misguided.

RI-CAN's analysis showed that since 2008, there has been an 11.1% increase in the number of charter school students scoring "Proficient" on the reading portion of New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) and a 6.8% increase on the math portion -- compared with 3.3 % and 2.9%, respectively, for all RI students. Furthermore, the percentage of charter schools with students reaching proficiency is 67% for reading and 56% for math -- 11 and 16 percentage points higher than students in their home district.

"We don’t need a ‘thoughtful pause’ or a long-term study to show us what is obvious from data available right now,” said RI-CAN Executive Director Maryellen Butke. “Charter schools are closing the achievement gap and Rhode Island kids don’t have time to wait for a great education.”

RI-CAN is an education reform advocacy organization launched last December. One major goal of the group's 2011 legislative campaign calls for investment in charter schools' capital costs, rent and upgrades without depleting funds available for education programs. RI-CAN is asking that charter schools be reimbursed for building costs on par with dollars received by the school districts in which their students reside.

Charter schools tied to Race to the Top

In fact, education reform advocates say some federal funding for all public schools could be at risk if Chafee does not support charter schools. Rhode Island received a $75 million federal Race to the Top grant last year partly because it lifted a cap on the number of in-state charter schools. Backing off charter expansion could jeopardize the award, according to its supporters.

The state currently has 15 charter schools serving 2,925 students -- 2.7% of public school students -- with another 4,000 students on waiting lists. Despite Chafee's hesitance, the RI Department of Education is dedicated to expanding the number of charter schools in Rhode Island, according to a spokesman.

"The commissioner [Deborah Gist] supports expanding the number of charter schools, but only high-performing charter schools," said Elliot Krieger of RIDE. "She supports passing a new set of standards for charter schools to improve their performance."

A spokesperson for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers did not respond to a request for comment.
 

 

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