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Community schools fare far below publics


Students in a large majority of community schools are performing at a level "unequivocally below" the performance of those in traditional public schools, a Miami University study shows.

Researchers Lawrence Sherman, professor of educational psychology, and Richard Hofmann, professor emeritus of educational leadership at Miami, performed a statistical analysis using comparisons based on variables reported in the 2004-2005 school building report cards of Ohio's 609 school districts (3,412 school buildings) and 129 community schools. The report cards are the schools' means of accountability to meet federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) achievement mandates.

In 2004-2005, Ohio began referring to charter schools as "community schools." This converts the schools to autonomous school districts that, as of the 2004-2005 school year, must conform to the demands of NCLB, say Sherman and Hofmann. This change also facilitates comparative analyses of the schools.

Indicators of performance include attendance rates, graduation rates, proficiency and achievement tests performance. Within the state's designations, data are based on school building performance, as opposed to district performance.

Among the researchers' findings:
Sixty percent of community schools and about 6 percent of traditional schools are in the state's "academic emergency" category. About 46 percent of community schools and 4 percent of traditional schools met 10 percent or fewer state standards.

Twenty five percent of traditional and 2 percent of community school are rated "excellent," with the same percentages achieving 90 percent or more of standards.
Among other comparative performance markers, the researchers graphed the performance index for school buildings, which is an overall indicator of how well a school is doing on all evaluative criteria used by the state. They found 75 percent of community schools' scores would be at the 10th percentile if grouped with traditional schools.

Attendance rates were generally higher in traditional schools. Seventy-five percent of traditional schools had graduation rates above 90 percent. Seventy-five percent of the community schools' graduation rates were below 80 percent.

"If alternative schools are the choice, our data suggest for the most part they're not a good choice right now," says Sherman. "Perhaps the options are not what they seem."


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