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L.A. Magnets Outscore Charters on 2016 Tests

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By Alan Warhaftig

Both magnets and charters are schools of choice, and it is more appropriate to compare these schools than to compare charters to Los Angeles Unified School District traditional neighborhood schools.  When these schools of choice are compared, magnets outperformed charters by large margins (11-21 percentage points) at every grade level on the English Language Arts (ELA) and Math sections of 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests.

 Percent Met or Exceeded Standards

2016 SBAC English Language Arts

Magnets

Charters

Grade 3

57%

42%

Grade 4

58%

43%

Grade 5

62%

47%

Grade 6

56%

37%

Grade 7

57%

39%

Grade 8

60%

42%

Grade 11

76%

65%

All Grades

61%

45%

 

Percent Met or Exceeded Standards

2016 SBAC Math

Magnets

Charters

Grade 3

60%

47%

Grade 4

53%

37%

Grade 5

44%

31%

Grade 6

45%

25%

Grade 7

47%

26%

Grade 8

47%

26%

Grade 11

46%

33%

All Grades

48%

31%

 

This year's release (available here) by LAUSD's Office of Data and Accountability allows a much more detailed comparison of charters and magnets than was previously possible, including what kinds of students go to each type of school and how well they perform.

Consider English Learners (ELs).  These students comprised 19% of charter school test takers and only 5% of those from magnet schools.  ELs is the only sub-group in which charters outperformed magnets.  On the English Language Arts assessment, ELs at charters outperformed ELs at magnets by five percentage points (11% to 6%), and on the math assessment charters outperformed magnets by two percentage points (11% to 9%).

There were slightly more Reclassified ELs (students who achieved English fluency) at charters than at magnets (36%-32%), and Reclassified ELs at magnets outperformed those at charters on both the English Language Arts (60% to 54%) and Math (45% to 34%) exams.

Both magnets and charters are about equally balanced between male and female students, and magnet students of both genders scored considerably higher on both (15 to 18 percentage points) than charter students:

Percent Met or Exceeded Standards

2016 SBAC Results by Gender

Magnets

Charters

Female ELA

66%

51%

Male ELA

57%

40%

 

 

 

Female Math

47%

31%

Male Math

49%

31%

 

While more African American, Asian and White students were enrolled in magnets than in charters, more Latinos were enrolled in charters: 

Percentage of 2016 SBAC Test Takers

 

 

African American

12%

10%

Asian

9%

2%

Latino

58%

74%

White

14%

8%

 

Magnet students of all ethnicities scored considerably higher (5 to 14 percentage points) than charter students on the SBAC English Language Arts assessment.  African Americans enrolled in magnets scored 14 percentage points (44%) higher than African Americans enrolled in charters, and Latinos enrolled in magnets scored 12 percentage points (28%) higher than Latinos enrolled in charters.

Percent Met or Exceeded Standards

2016 SBAC ELA Results by Ethnicity

Magnets

Charters

African American ELA

46%

32%

Asian ELA

84%

79%

Latino ELA

55%

43%

White ELA

78%

66%

 

Magnet students of all ethnicities also scored considerably higher (seven to 12 percentage points) than charter students on the SBAC Mathematics assessment.  African Americans enrolled in magnets scored 11 percentage points (65%) higher than African Americans enrolled in charters, and Latinos enrolled in magnets scored 11 percentage points (38%) higher than Latinos enrolled in charters:

Percent Met or Exceeded Standards

2016 SBAC Math Results by Ethnicity

Magnets

Charters

African American Math

28%

17%

Asian Math

82%

75%

Latino Math

40%

29%

White Math

66%

54%

 

Almost twice the percentage of students with disabilities were enrolled in charter schools than in magnet programs (11% to 6%), but students with disabilities enrolled in magnets outperformed their counterparts in charters by seven percentage points (20% to 13%) on the SBAC English Language Arts assessment and by six percentage points (16% to 10%) on the SBAC Mathematics assessment.

A significantly higher percentage of economically disadvantaged test takers were enrolled in charter schools (82%) than in magnets (69%), but economically disadvantaged students enrolled in magnets outperformed their counterparts in charters by 13 percentage points (55% to 42%) on the SBAC English Language Arts assessment and by 14 percentage points (41% to 27%) on the SBAC Mathematics assessment.

The percentage of students who qualify for federal free or reduced price lunch programs has long been taken as an indicator for the poverty level of students at a school.  The new, accurate disaggregated federal lunch eligibility data allow magnets and charters to be grouped by the percentage of their students who qualify for the lunch program.  Charts that do this for 11th graders, the only high school students tested, are available here.

It should be noted that, at almost all LAUSD schools, the majority of students come from homes in poverty, as indicated by lunch eligibility, but poverty backgrounds are concentrated in both charters and magnets.  Among high schools where the poverty concentration is between 65% and 85%, magnets outperform charters. 

However, charters tend to enroll students from very high concentrations of poverty.  Among the high schools with a poverty concentration above 90%, there are 34 charters and only 4 magnets.  The charter scores in these schools on the English Language Arts assessment were impressive: 19 of the 34 met or exceeded the state average.

Compared to magnets, charter schools serve higher percentages of Economically Disadvantaged Students, Students with Disabilities, English Learners and Reclassified English Learners, but the only subgroup in which charters outperformed magnets on the 2016 SBAC assessments is English Learners.  Magnets outperformed charters at every grade level, with both genders, and for all ethnicities.  Unless a child is currently classified as an English Learner, parents will find that their children will be better served academically by enrolling in an LAUSD magnet program.

 

Alan Warhaftig is an English teacher and magnet coordinator at LAUSD's Fairfax Visual Arts Magnet HS.   Last year, 58 of the 62 juniors he taught (94%) met or exceeded the SBAC ELA standard.

 

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