Florida: Poor Charter School Performance Persists

Charter school promoters and operators have long believed that scores on unsound high-stakes standardized tests produced by large for-profit corporations are useful and meaningful measures of teaching and learning. They rarely say anything critical about these tests that have been rejected for years by millions of teachers, parents, students, and education advocates across the country.

And while charter school promoters and operators never miss an opportunity to boast about high test scores at privately-operated charter schools that routinely cherry-pick their students, the fact is that many privately-operated charter schools perform poorly every year (see here and here). Not surprisingly, charter school promoters do not like to hear about or advertise poor test scores in thousands of charter schools, or the covert and overt strategies that privately-operated charter schools use to increase scores on these corporate tests, including providing financial incentives to charter school employees to “get scores up.”

The latest data on poor charter school performance comes from Florida, where a large number of privately-operated charter schools have been performing poorly for years.

According to WJCT News,

Almost a third of Duval’s [Florida] charter schools got a D or F rating in the latest round of school grades — triple the rate of non-charter public schools. Overall, Duval charters made up nearly half of the lowest-performing schools in the district, versus just 14% in the last round of grades, in 2019 before the pandemic. (emphasis added)

Equally worrisome is the fact that while poor-performing public schools are subject to harsh neoliberal sanctions, failing charter schools are allowed by the state to continue to operate without the same sanctions as long as they “have a plan” to improve. In practice this means failing charter schools have nine lives, which goes against the “free market” ideology embraced by charter school promoters that says failing charter schools should be shut down so that they can be reopened by another “edupreneur.”

In addition to thousands of “innovative” privately-operated charter schools performing poorly every year, about 150-200 close every year as well, leaving large numbers of poor and low-income minorities out in the cold. Financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and poor academic performance are the top three reasons privately-operated charter schools close every week.

Approximately 342,000 students are enrolled in nearly 700 charter schools in Florida. For information and analysis on closures, corruption, and waste in Florida’s troubled charter school sector, search here and here.

Shawgi Tell is author of the book Charter School Report Card. He can be reached at stell5@naz.edu.. Read other articles by Shawgi.