This past year, the failure of the Imagine Academy network of charter schools was widely publicized. As a result, the charter network’s sponsor dropped Imagine and the schools closed. This is how charter advocates have suggested the market would work; when schools are not performing, they close. Because the Imagine schools are now closed, I have calculated the same comparisons from my previous two posts, removing all Imagine schools from the past five years. Of course, we cannot erase the failing of Imagine schools, but it is interesting nonetheless to see what kind of difference the closing of a poor school might have on the overall performance in the charter market.
The change in scores when Imagine schools are removed is most noticeable in Saint Louis, where most Imagine schools were located. In both communication arts and mathematics, Saint Louis charter schools have higher percentages of students scoring proficient or advanced than the traditional public schools of Saint Louis. Without factoring in Imagine, 32.9 percent of students in Saint Louis charter schools scored proficient or advanced in communication arts, 2.9 percentage points higher than the local public schools. Since 2008, the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced has risen in Saint Louis charter schools by nearly 88 percent.
Charter and Traditional Public School Performance in Communication Arts (Imagine removed)
The story in mathematics is much the same. In both cities, charter schools have higher percentages of students scoring proficient or advanced, when Imagine schools are removed. Kansas City charters scored 11.4 percentage points higher than Kansas City traditional public schools; Saint Louis charters scored 6.4 percentage points higher. Both charter sectors have shown steady growth. From 2008 to 2012, the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced has increased 55 percent in Kansas City and 82 percent in Saint Louis.
Charter and Traditional Public School Performance in Mathematics (Imagine removed)
On average, charter schools in Saint Louis and Kansas City have shown fairly consistent growth over the past five years. Kansas City charter schools have higher percentages of students scoring proficient or advanced than the local school district; Saint Louis charter schools are closing the gap between them and the traditional Saint Louis school district. The growth is even more dramatic when the now closed Imagine charter schools are removed from the comparison.