While I was at it, I decided to add the numbers for another charter management organization, CharterUSA. Like the others, I tagged their schools by looking at the website.
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The series from the SunSentinel on Florida's charter schools is well worth the read: it's the Wild West down there, with some of the craziest stories of charter school malfeasance, corruption, and incompetence you could imagine.
What's missing, however, is some hard data on student population characteristics and academic results. I want to try to fill that in over the next few posts.
Data here is from two sources: the FLDOE and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The following two graphs come from M-DCPS data. The blue bars represent the M-DCPS -- the non-charters. Red bars are the charters; green and purple are two of the better-known for-profit charter school operators, Academica and Mavericks.
Academica, as I reported last year, has an amazing scheme working for them: using taxpayer-subsidized financing, they build new charters on land that they control, raking in lease payments from charters they, in many cases, operate. The Tampa Bay Times reported last April that the company is under federal investigation.
Mavericks is run by the brother of Vice-President Joe Biden, Frank:
What's clear here is that these charter operators are not serving a representative student population of the Miami-Dade School District. Academica is, for all intents and purposes, a Hispanic school system, enrolling fewer Free and Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL)* students than M-DCPS. Mavericks has a black student population strikingly larger than the rest of the area, and far more boys, even as their FRPL population is relatively smaller.
There are also notable differences in student enrollment in special programs:
The charter sector, and Academica in particular, has left the education of Students With Disabilities (SWDs) to M-DCPS. Mavericks is the big exception here, but remember: not all "disabilities" are the same. I haven't yet found whether the data is there to explore this further.
I also find it striking that Academica has such a large Hispanic student population, yet a smaller proportion of English Language Learners (ELL) than M-DCPS (reminds me of the Noble charter chain in Chicago).
It's going to take a bit of time to get a handle of how this affects student achievement. But it's worth repeating: any time you hear that Florida's charter schools are getting "great" results, remember that they do not serve the same student populations as the local public schools.
I often get the feeling some folks would rather you not remember this.
Charter school edu-preneur and Academica business partner Pitbull.
* Annoying: both FLDOE and M-DCPS data do not disaggregate free lunch from reduced-price lunch students. Yes, it matters.