DPI Data Shows That Independent Charter Schools Outperform Traditional MPS Schools on the WKCE

By Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst

Last week, we examined the population of students by  independent 2R charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine. State-collected figures suggest that these schools educate a higher percentage of low-income students than regular public schools in Milwaukee.

A further look into DPI’s numbers reveals an impressive fact about students in these schools – the majority of them are outperforming their MPS counterparts when it comes to reading skills on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE).

Twelve schools have reported data from 2010’s round of WKCE testing. Eleven of these schools offered fourth grade classwork for students. Of these 11 schools, nine posted higher reading results when it come to Wisconsin’s standardized test than the citywide average.

The WKCE isn’t a perfect measure by any means. In fact, it tells us little outside of raw scores and fails to create meaningful, value-added data that can be applied to classrooms or compared across states. However, for the case, it will have to do, as it does provide a solid comparison point between schools within the same districts. In 2010, the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) and the WAASwD – an alternate assessment for students with disabilities – supplemented the WKCE.

The WKCE has four different categories for scoring – minimum performing, basic, proficient, and advanced. Each measures the level of mastery that a student shows on the comprehensive tests.

In Milwaukee, the citywide public school average for students scoring “basic” or above amongst fourth graders was 88.9 percent. Nine schools, including six that educate a greater concentration of economically disadvantaged students than the MPS average, posted higher scores than this average.

The public school average for students rating “proficient” or better in fourth grade was 62.3 percent. Eight independent 2R charter schools bested this mark. Five of these schools educated a greater percentage of low-income students than the average MPS classroom. This suggests that students in independent charter schools – charter schools that are authorized by either the city of Milwaukee or local higher education powers – are more likely to have a stronger grip on reading concepts beyond rudimentary skills.

These schools, on average, had nearly 10 percent more students scoring at “proficient” or better when it came to fourth grade reading. Nearly four percent more students scored “basic” or above.

Tenor High School, the only 2R charter high school with recorded data, also outperformed the MPS standard in literacy in 2010. As a whole, non-instrumentality schools were nearly seven percent better when it came to students scoring proficient or advanced on these tests. They were nearly two percent better when expanding the metric to include pupils that rated basic and better.

This DPI data suggests that not only are these schools educating more low-income students than the city’s regular public institutions, but the majority of these charter schools are also performing better when it comes to the WKCE.

EDIT: This table previously had used an incorrect student count to determine how many students in these charter schools had taken the WKCE in 2010-2011. The article has been updated to reflect the accurate counts, as provided by the Department of Public Instruction (12/14/2011).