Measuring Up



Pennsylvania

TOTAL SCORE:
42 out of 116

Rank: 23 out of 26

See a summary of the state’s charter law.

See additional observations about charters in the state and recommendations to support the growth of high-quality charter schools.

What is the state of charter schools in Pennsylvania?

GROWTH INDICATORS

 

 

Score


1. Public school share
 (2013–14)

3

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Number

Percentage

 

Public charter schools

176

5%

 

 


2. Public school student share
 (2013–14)

6

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Number

Percentage

 

Public charter school students

128,701

7%

 

 

3. Students by race and ethnicity (2012–13)

4

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Charters

Traditional

Difference

White

37%

71%

-34%

Black

43%

13%

30%

Hispanic

14%

9%

5%

Asian

3%

3%

0%

Other

3%

5%

-2%

Total minority

63%

30%

33%

 

4. Students in special populations (2011–12)

4

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Charters

Traditional

Difference

Free and reduced-price lunch status

35%

40%

-5%

Special education status

N/A

N/A

N/A

English learner status

N/A

N/A

N/A

Total special student populations

35%

40%

-5%

 

5. Schools by geographic distribution (2011–12)

6

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Charters

Traditional

Difference

City

67%

16%

51%

Suburb

22%

41%

-19%

Town

4%

13%

-9%

Rural

7%

30%

-23%

Total nonsuburban

78%

59%

19%

 

6. Communities with more than 10 percent of students in public charter schools (2012–13)

1

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

 

 

 

Number of communities with more than 10 percent of students in public charter schools

3

 

7. New public charter schools opened over the past five years  (2009–14)

6

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

 

 

 

2009–10

9

Average Annual Open Rate

7.5%

2010–11

12

2011–12

18

2012–13

14

2013–14

6

Total number

59

 

 

 

 

8. Public charter schools closed over the past five years (2008–13)

6

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

 

 

 

2008–09

2

Average Annual Closure Rate

1.2%

2009–10

1

2010–11

0

2011–12

1

2012–13

5

Total number

9

 

 

 

 
 

INNOVATION INDICATORS

 

 

Score

9. Public charter schools reporting use of various innovative practices (2011–12)

6

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

 

 

 

Extended day (30 minutes or more each day compared to traditional public schools)

57

Average

27%

Extended year (10 or more days compared to traditional public schools)

39

Year-round calendar

10

Independent study

26

School-to-work

10

Higher education courses

22

 
 

QUALITY INDICATORS

 

 

Score

10. Additional days of learning in reading (2007–11)

0

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

 

 

 

Number of additional days of learning in reading

-29

 

 

 

 

11. Additional days of learning in math (2007–11)

0

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

 

 

 

Number of additional days of learning in math

-50

 

 

 

Items Reported But Not Scored

Startups versus conversions (2012–13)

 

Startups

Conversions

 

 

Percentage of a state’s public charter schools

93%

7%

 

 

 

Public charter schools that are independent, associated with a CMO, or associated with an EMO (2010–11)

 

Number

Percentage

 

 

Independent

104

72%

 

 

Charter management organization

23

16%

 

 

Education management organization

18

12%

 

 

 

Charter authorizers (2013–14)

 

Number of authorizers

Number of charter schools

Average number of charters per authorizer

Percentage of the state’s public charters authorized by this type of authorizer

Local education agency

48

162

3

92%

State education agency

1

14

14

8%

Independent charter board

Noneducational government entity

Higher education institution

Nonprofit

 

Virtual public charter schools and students (2012–13)

Number of virtual public charter school students

34,694

 

 

Percentage of a state’s public charter school student population enrolled
in virtual charter schools

29%

 

 

Number of virtual public charter schools

16

 

 

Percentage of a state’s public charter schools that are virtual charter schools

9%

 

 

 

Health of the Movement Summary

Pennsylvania’s public charter school movement ranked #23 out of 26, scoring 42 points out of 116.

Pennsylvania scored relatively well on the following indicators:

    • Seventy-eight percent of the state’s public charters were located in nonsuburban areas in 2011–12 as compared to 59 percent of traditional public schools.
    • An average of 27 percent of the state’s public charter schools reported using one of the six innovative practices that we tracked in 2011–12.

Pennsylvania scored relatively low on the following indicators:

      • Only 5 percent of the state’s public schools were charters in 2013–14.
      • Only three communities in the state had more than 10 percent of public school students in charters in 2012–13.
      • On average, public charter school students exhibited lower academic growth in both reading and math when compared with traditional public school students between 2007–08 and 2010–11 in Pennsylvania (29 days less in reading and 50 days less in math).

In addition to the above points, we also offer the following observations about the movement in Pennsylvania:

      • Seven percent of the state’s public school students were charter students in 2013–14.
      • The state’s public charter schools served a significantly higher percentage of racial and ethnic minority students (33 percentage points more) when compared with traditional public schools in 2012–13.
      • In 2011–12, public charter schools in Pennsylvania served a lower percentage of free and reduced-price lunch students when compared with traditional public schools (5 percentage points less).
      • Fifty-nine public charters opened between 2009–10 and 2013–14 in Pennsylvania, a 7.5 percent average annual open rate.
      • Nine public charter schools closed between 2008–09 and 2012–13 in Pennsylvania, a 1.2 percent average annual closure rate.
      • Ninety-three percent of the state’s public charter schools were startups, and 7 percent were conversions during 2012–13.
      • All public charter schools in Pennsylvania must be organized as nonprofits. In 2010–11, 72 percent of these schools were independently managed, 16 percent were associated with a nonprofit charter management organization, and 12 percent were associated with a for-profit educational management organization.
      • Pennsylvania law provides the following potential authorizers: local school boards, two or more local boards for regional charters, and the state department of education for virtual public charter schools. As of 2013–14, 48 local school boards had authorized 162 public charter schools (92 percent of the state’s public charter schools), and the state department of education had authorized 14 virtual public charter schools (8 percent).
      • There were 16 virtual public charter schools in Pennsylvania in 2012–13, serving 34,694 students (29 percent of the state’s public charter school population).

Recommendations

Pennsylvania has a small population of public charter schools but a notable population of public charter school students. While there are many successful public charter schools in Pennsylvania, public charter school students, on average, are not performing as well as their peers in traditional public schools, although it is important to note that the most recent student academic growth data available are from 2010–11.

Notably, performance varies significantly between brick-and-mortar public charter schools and virtual public charter schools within this data set. Between 2007–08 and 2010–11, 60 percent of brick-and-mortar public charter schools performed with similar or better success than the traditional public schools in reading, and 53 percent of brick-and-mortar public charter schools performed with similar or better success in math compared to traditional public schools. However, 100 percent of virtual public charter schools performed worse than their traditional public school counterparts in both reading and math.1

More recent and comprehensive data from the state’s new School Performance Profile (SPP) includes multiple metrics to assess the performance of all public schools and allows for an “apples-to-apples” comparison of results from charter schools directly with the traditional schools from which the charters are drawing their students. The SPP data shows brick and mortar charters significantly outperforming their feeder school counterparts. In Philadelphia, for example, the SPP average in 2012–13 for traditional public schools (including magnet schools) was 57, while the average for brick-and-mortar public charter schools was 65. However, virtual schools still lag behind traditional schools.

To better support the growth of high-quality public charter schools, we recommend that the state change its law to strengthen the competency of current authorizers, create additional high-quality authorizing options, strengthen its accountability policies, and ensure equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

1Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Charter School Performance in Pennsylvania, April 2011, http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/PA percent20State percent20Report_20110404_FINAL.pdf.