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Report: Ohio public schools perform better than charter schools

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(The Center Square) – Ohio traditional public schools perform better or similar to charter schools, defying a national trend, according to a Stanford study.

The evaluation comes when the Ohio House and Senate close in a new budget that expands using public tax dollars for private schools across the state. The Senate budget would create universal school choice, while the House increased to families of four making less than $135,000 a year.

Overall, the report said nationally, students have stronger learning in charter schools than in traditional public schools available to them.

In Ohio, however, public school students in Ohio received an additional 38 days of instruction in math than their charter school counterparts, according to the study. Public school students receive four additional days of reading.

In an analysis of academic growth, Ohio public schools were 68% stronger or the same as charter schools in reading. In terms of math, public schools were 69% stronger or similar.

“We have seen on the Ohio state report card pretty consistently charter school performance lagging traditional public schools, even if you’re looking at urban, high-poverty district,” Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, told The Center Square. “Ohio has historically had really lax oversight when it comes to charter school performance.”

Jason Wall, vice president of policy at the Ohio Council of Community Schools, did not respond to an email seeking reaction to the study.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the Ohio Senate’s budget eliminates $106.8 million going to 36 districts to pay for students who receive state money to attend private schools.

“This study should be a caution for legislators as they are thinking about where to prioritize resources,” DiMauro said. “On the whole, charter schools don’t perform well, and if you look at voucher performance, most students who attend private schools on a voucher don’t do as well as the same kids from the same neighborhoods who attend public schools.”

Under the Senate’s plan, families who earn 450% of the federal poverty level – $135,000 for a family of four – would qualify for a full school choice scholarship. Families above that threshold will be means-tested with scholarships adjusted based on income. Every student in Ohio would be eligible for at least 10% of the maximum scholarship.

“Parents know what is best for their children,” Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said in a recent statement. “Every parent wants the best for their son or daughter, and where they go to school can make all the difference.”

Democrats expressed concern about expanding school vouchers, which, if they become universal, could cost the state $1 billion, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

“One of my biggest concerns continues to be the additional expansion of private school scholarship vouchers. A program that was intended to help low-income children could now subsidize wealthy families to continue to send their children to private schools,” said Democratic Leader Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood.

The Stanford study began in 2009 when traditional public schools scored better in the analysis than charters. The latest edition was released Tuesday. The executive summary says, in part, “Our work deliberately focuses on a specific outcome: the annual progress that students make over an academic year. In this report, we look at students in charter schools compared to the experience they would have had in the TPS they would have otherwise attended.”

In explaining its methodology, the report says in part, “To conduct a fair analysis, this study followed the approach of our previous studies looking at the academic growth of individual students as reflected in their performance on state achievement tests in both reading and math. To ensure accurate estimates of charter school enrollment on student academic growth, we used statistical methods to neutralize the influence of student demographics and eligibility for categorical program support, such as free or reduced-price lunch eligibility and special education. In this way, we structured the analysis so that differences in academic growth between the two groups are a function of which schools they attended.”

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