If charter schools are ruining education in Missouri, more please!
The Kansas City and St. Louis school districts saw two of the largest gains in the country in their graduation rates from 2011 to 2013, according to the recently released 2015 Building a Grad Nation report. Kansas City shot up 17 percentage points, and St. Louis 14.
Now, this might strike you as odd when you hear over and over that charter schools are destroying public education. Kansas City and St. Louis each have more than one-third of their students enrolled in charter schools, and yet, the traditional public school districts seem to be getting better. How can this be?
It’s possible that either by stirring competition, more efficiently sorting students into options that serve them, or relieving pressure from school districts, charter schools are helping once struggling districts turn a corner. Whatever the reason, it is hard to look at these numbers and see charter schools harming either district.
I should also point out that both districts started in very bad places. In 2011, Kansas City had a graduation rate of 50 percent and St. Louis was at 54 percent. Even with their gains, the Kansas City School District sits at only 67 percent and St. Louis at 68 percent. This puts them on par with cities like Newark, New Jersey (68 percent) and Compton, California (65 percent). They perform worse in absolute terms than neighboring cities like Little Rock (75 percent) and even Chicago (70 percent). Inauspicious company. Clearly, there is still a long, long way to go.
Around the rest of the state, there was both good news and bad news.
The overall graduation rate in Missouri is up, from 81% in 2011 to 85.7% in 2013. That gain represents the 6th best growth rate in the country over that time period. At the same time, though, Hispanic students in the class of 2013 graduated at a rate of 81 percent, low-income students graduated at a rate of 78 percent, and African-American students graduated at a rate of only 72 percent.
The report also broke out the performance of districts with at least 15,000 students:
- Around Kansas City, North Kansas City saw a graduation rate of 91 percent and Lee’s Summit clocked in at 94 percent.
- In greater St. Louis, Hazelwood saw an 86 percent graduation rate, Ft. Zumwalt 89 percent, Francis Howell 92 percent, Parkway 93 percent, and Rockwood 94 percent.
- Columbia had a graduation rate of 86 percent and Springfield had one of 87 percent.
All in all, a very interesting report that should inform conversations about education around the state.