FCAT tests the performance of region's charter schools vs. public schools

In this 2012 file photo, third grade students work to solve a math problem as their teacher, Melissa Moore, helps the class prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) at Bonita Springs Charter School.

Naples Daily News

In this 2012 file photo, third grade students work to solve a math problem as their teacher, Melissa Moore, helps the class prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) at Bonita Springs Charter School.

— There's close competition between local charter and traditional public schools to see which students can perform best on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test as testing wraps up this week.

But statewide, charter school students are pulling ahead, according to an April report by the Florida Department of Education. The report, using 2010-11 FCAT data, determined that students who attend charter schools tend to outscore their traditional public school peers in almost every subject.

Local charter schools don't all mirror that trend. Charter schools like Marco Island Middle and Bonita Springs Charter are consistently high-performing, whereas others like Immokalee Community School lag behind the state average.

Marco Island Academy high school opened in August 2011, so it wasn't included in this report.

Proponents of charter schools, like Colleen Reynolds, spokeswoman for Bonita Springs Charter, said the report gives charter schools a reason to celebrate, especially after years of criticism.

Charter schools have more flexibility with curriculum and usually are run by private organizations. They are considered public schools and receive state funding like traditional public schools.

Reynolds said critics often base their judgment of charter schools on a few under-performing schools. She said this report is changing that.

"Just because we have a couple of F (charter) schools doesn't mean that's the norm," she said of charter schools across the state.

On the state's grading system, Bonita Springs Charter school is an A school. Students' scores consistently exceed state standards. Last year, more than 80 percent of the students were proficient in reading, writing and math.

Bonita Springs Charter Principal Deborah Tracy said the school takes extra steps to ensure every student is successful.

Three times a year, the school assesses all students in an FCAT-like environment — a teacher proctors the test and the desks are moved apart to prevent cheating. Those performing below grade level are mentored after school and receive additional schooling on Saturdays.

The school tracks each student's progress and targets lessons to help those students improve.

"We don't just emphasize the FCAT the night before," Tracy said.

Teachers participate in collaborative sessions twice a month to share best practices and to focus on FCAT instruction. Teachers also meet regularly with parents to discuss a student's progress.

"Students didn't feel anxious or frustrated this year," Tracy said. "They knew what the test would be like and how they would perform."

The state will release FCAT scores in June.

But others said the state education agency's report isn't a fair comparison of the schools.

Charter and traditional schools must give all students an equal opportunity to attend the school. However, charter schools can limit enrollment and turn away students if the school doesn't have the services to meet a child's needs. This often pertains to students with severe learning or physical disabilities.

"A traditional public school must educate everybody," Collier chief instructional officer Beth Thompson said.

Immokalee Community School limits its enrollment to around 230 students. Other traditional elementary schools in Immokalee, like Highlands Elementary, have more than 700 students.

Immokalee Community School is a C school. An average of 60 percent of the student body is proficient in reading, math and writing.

Highlands Elementary also is a C school and an average of 70 percent of the students are proficient in reading, math and writing.

The scores are similar, but Immokalee Community School doesn't outperform Highlands.

Bette Heins, education professor at Stetson University in DeLand, said the major determining factor of a student's success is socioeconomic background, not whether the student attends a charter or traditional public school.

In both Immokalee and Highlands, around 95 percent of the students are economically needy.

"Both traditional and charter are performing about the same in most of those categories when you incorporate demographics," Heins said.

Even though the state data favors charter schools, Reynolds and Heins agreed that the charter school movement won't eliminate traditional public schools.

"There are good public schools and good charter schools; poor performing public schools and poor performing charter schools," Reynolds said. "What's important is that there's a choice."

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 29

John_Galt writes:

Choice? We have a few private schools and a few charter schools, and you call that choice? Just like the soviets had a choice in their automobiles right? You can have the one that only runs down hill, or the one that only runs on Tuesdays, take your pick. That's about the extent of our school choice!

namaste writes:

Can charter schools refuse to take disruptive or non-caring students? That could definitely afect the charter school outcome.

adirondacks writes:

These test are completely worthless !

FreshFace writes:

What people fail to realize is that the charter schools kick out the kids that are trouble, habitually missing....they don't tend to take special needs children either. Where do all of these kids end up? In the public system. Let's compare apples to apples shall we?

gl1800 writes:

in response to FreshFace:

What people fail to realize is that the charter schools kick out the kids that are trouble, habitually missing....they don't tend to take special needs children either. Where do all of these kids end up? In the public system. Let's compare apples to apples shall we?

Why compare apples to apples. All the article says is that charter schools generally perform better than public schools. The article failed to mention that less money is spent per pupil in a charter school than in the public schools. So even though charter schools cost less per student and get a better education the teachers union sees fit to opposes charter schools.

blueblueblue writes:

in response to gl1800:

Why compare apples to apples. All the article says is that charter schools generally perform better than public schools. The article failed to mention that less money is spent per pupil in a charter school than in the public schools. So even though charter schools cost less per student and get a better education the teachers union sees fit to opposes charter schools.

Where are you getting your information that the charter schools spend less money per student?

CJB writes:

Keep in mind that if a child attends a charter school, the parents took the time to apply and are most likely, actively involved in their child's education. In public schools, you have some involved parents and some who have no clue what their kids do at school.

Parental involvement is probably a very large factor in this argument.

Ruger writes:

in response to blueblueblue:

Where are you getting your information that the charter schools spend less money per student?

Here is an educational test for you, look at #7...

http://www.parentsforcharterschools.o...

teachercreature writes:

Ruger, if your source is accurate, they received about 5% less. Most public schools would take the 5% less just to get central administration off their backs. Let's turn them all into charter schools and just make sure to keep the zealots from either the far right or the far left from taking over. It would work very well, I assure you -- except that there would be more kids expelled and taxpayers wouldn't like those little yahoos running around. Special needs kids esp. those with learning issues, would need charter schools that catered to their needs. It could work. Why can't we try it? Many public school teachers would welcome the idea because it frees them to do what they can do best -- teach! Instead of marching along to the central administration drum.

SunStar writes:

Bonita Springs Charter is run really well...we're proud to have them in the community. Also, heard YMCA is planning a charter high school in the city.

Candyce writes:

Totally abolish the FCAT, it's a waste.

Anotherview writes:

in response to blueblueblue:

Where are you getting your information that the charter schools spend less money per student?

According to the 2012 Tax Watch study, charter schools receive 68-71% of the tax dollars public schools receive for the same student.
http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resour...

Anotherview writes:

in response to Ruger:

Here is an educational test for you, look at #7...

http://www.parentsforcharterschools.o...

This Tax Watch 2012 study shows that charter schools receive only 68-71% of what public schools receive per student.
http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resour...

Anotherview writes:

in response to namaste:

Can charter schools refuse to take disruptive or non-caring students? That could definitely afect the charter school outcome.

Charter schools are public schools and are required to open enrollment to all students exactly the same as traditional public schools. A random lottery is used if there are more students applying than there are seats. Charter schools cannot refuse to take any student.

Anotherview writes:

I find it interesting that if a study comes out that bashes charter schools, everyone wants to believe it. But when a study comes out and shows the truth, nobody wants to believe it. Charter schools are a great option for many students. Charter schools serve those who enter below grade level, gifted students and everyone in between. Obviously it's a threat when a competitor comes in and does a better job for less money. Wake up taxpayers - your investment is much more sound in charter schools than in traditional public schools. It is false that charter schools can choose their students. All charter schools must accept all students under the exact same conditions as a traditional public school. Anyone that says differently is lying.

Ruger writes:

in response to Anotherview:

I find it interesting that if a study comes out that bashes charter schools, everyone wants to believe it. But when a study comes out and shows the truth, nobody wants to believe it. Charter schools are a great option for many students. Charter schools serve those who enter below grade level, gifted students and everyone in between. Obviously it's a threat when a competitor comes in and does a better job for less money. Wake up taxpayers - your investment is much more sound in charter schools than in traditional public schools. It is false that charter schools can choose their students. All charter schools must accept all students under the exact same conditions as a traditional public school. Anyone that says differently is lying.

I agree, we need more Charter schools apparently.

Since these schools are normally non-union we have to expect a certain amount of negativity from the union members/supporters.

SunStar writes:

in response to CJB:

Keep in mind that if a child attends a charter school, the parents took the time to apply and are most likely, actively involved in their child's education. In public schools, you have some involved parents and some who have no clue what their kids do at school.

Parental involvement is probably a very large factor in this argument.

Totally agree. It's a team effort involving child, parent, class mates/friends & teacher. Picking the right friends definitely play a role in one's success and behavior!

SunStar writes:

in response to Anotherview:

According to the 2012 Tax Watch study, charter schools receive 68-71% of the tax dollars public schools receive for the same student.
http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resour...

That is sad and unfair! State/county should not discriminate between public & charter. Charter should receive the same funding as of a public school. Otherwise how do you motivate them to excel? Charter schools depend a lot on parents for its supplies and all.

Illusion writes:

What is needed is a voucher system. Homeschooling or unschooling is the best option, but otherwise people should be able to have more choices through vouchers. Be aware most of the tax dollar for education feeds administration.

desperado writes:

I feel this is a waste of time. Students need to be taught by qualified educaters and not have to rely on this nonsense !

Anotherview writes:

in response to GOPWhistleblower:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's correct, charter schools also rely on parents to perform volunteer hours. Studies show that students perform better when their parent is actively involved in their education.

Anotherview writes:

in response to SunStar:

That is sad and unfair! State/county should not discriminate between public & charter. Charter should receive the same funding as of a public school. Otherwise how do you motivate them to excel? Charter schools depend a lot on parents for its supplies and all.

I agree. While I believe charter schools can and will continue to perform at a more efficient rate, imagine what they could do if they could reinvest their capital dollars back into the classroom? Charter school parents should be furious that the legislature believes their child is worth less than a student in a traditional public school. At this point you motivate them to excel by shutting them down if they fail. It's a shame they can't do that with failing traditional public schools.

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

in response to SunStar:

Totally agree. It's a team effort involving child, parent, class mates/friends & teacher. Picking the right friends definitely play a role in one's success and behavior!

Aspire higher!:

http://villages1.com/index.php?option...

And don't forget proper discipline and the prospect of returning child back to the parent?, eh!

starvingartist writes:

The FCAT does not measure the probability of your child getting knifed at school, sitting next to drug dealers or forced to endure union education.

tjohn#222071 writes:

I have lived in many states and countries, like many in this area.
I have never seen a county with our population with a billion dollar schools budget.
I have never seen a county our size with the school system being the largest employer in th county.
I have never seen a county with so much education spending have students perform so poorly.
Money is not the answer but the schools system here keeps spending more and more.

Yes, if I coulod sell my house for a profit I would do as you are thinking and move to a more sane community. Paradise? Ha! Paradise lost.

big_peach_e writes:

The Tax Watch study is another right wing effort to slant momentum towards the charters. It's a pure lie to say the charters get 70% of operating funding compared to school districts. Districts have to pass at least 95% of operating revenue to the charters. What they typically don't pass on to the charters is the local Capital Tax revenue which is used to construct and maintain the school buildings. The state however gives all the K-12 PECO capital the charters. Many of the charters today are run by FOR PROFIT management companies hiding behind puppet boards controlled by the management companies. Why would Tax Watch risk their reputation to issue a slanted report??? Follow the money...the FOR PROFIT management companies hire the Republican legislators as consultants/advisors and make huge campaign donations to the Republicans. Just follow the money and you can figure it out. Some day just Google the words "Charter School Fraud"... what you see will open your eyes for sure.

Ruger writes:

in response to big_peach_e:

The Tax Watch study is another right wing effort to slant momentum towards the charters. It's a pure lie to say the charters get 70% of operating funding compared to school districts. Districts have to pass at least 95% of operating revenue to the charters. What they typically don't pass on to the charters is the local Capital Tax revenue which is used to construct and maintain the school buildings. The state however gives all the K-12 PECO capital the charters. Many of the charters today are run by FOR PROFIT management companies hiding behind puppet boards controlled by the management companies. Why would Tax Watch risk their reputation to issue a slanted report??? Follow the money...the FOR PROFIT management companies hire the Republican legislators as consultants/advisors and make huge campaign donations to the Republicans. Just follow the money and you can figure it out. Some day just Google the words "Charter School Fraud"... what you see will open your eyes for sure.

You cannot argue against success.

FreshFace writes:

in response to Anotherview:

Charter schools are public schools and are required to open enrollment to all students exactly the same as traditional public schools. A random lottery is used if there are more students applying than there are seats. Charter schools cannot refuse to take any student.

I know someone right now that is at the Bonita CS. it is NOT a random lottery. TRUST me on that. SMH, you guys believe everything you read on here. LOL LOL

notafan writes:

in response to FreshFace:

I know someone right now that is at the Bonita CS. it is NOT a random lottery. TRUST me on that. SMH, you guys believe everything you read on here. LOL LOL

If the Bonita Charter School is indeed failing to conduct a random lottery then they are violating state statute 228.056(6)B and you should call the school district office to report them. They will cancel their charter in a heartbeat.

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