The achievement gap between students of different economic backgrounds has long been an issue the educational sector has tried to address through legislation and other reforms. School choice has allowed for significant progress to be made in closing the achievement gap naturally, without intervention. A new study, The Education Equality Index, takes a look at how this is demonstrated in districts around the country.
In the Columbus, Ohio, area, 10 schools are doing especially well at closing the achievement gap, five of which are charters. These are the Arts & College Preparatory Academy, Columbus Collegiate Academy, Columbus Preparatory Academy, Horizon Science Academy Columbus and Noble Academy, Columbus.
With only 76 charter schools in the Columbus region, to have half of the top performers as charters is quite a feat. “This is why we exist,” said Andy Boy, founder and CEO of United Schools Network, which operates the Columbus Collegiate Academy on the Near East Side. Nearly all its students, who are in the sixth to eighth grades, are from low-income households. “We are achieving our mission.”
In Memphis, Tennessee, the overall achievement gap closed by 19 percent from 2011 to 2014. “The one thing we’re seeing in Memphis, is that the diversity of options you’re providing are really evident on this list,” said Carrie McPherson Douglass, a managing partner at Education Cities, the organization that undertook the study. Charter schools have done incredible things in the city, including a school that has achieved a 100 percent graduation rate since 2012.
This can be compared with another city in Tennessee, Nashville, which finds the achievement gap growing under a school board that is hostile to charter schools. While six of their top 10 performing schools are charters, “We have three or four board members in Nashville that vote on denying every charter,” said Ravi Gupta, who runs a Nashville-based charter network.
“Charters, percentage-wise, are a very small group of schools in Nashville, yet they make up six out of 10 schools on that list,” he said. “I think that’s pretty remarkable.” While Memphis’s gap was closing by 19 percentage points, Nashville’s grew by 11 percent.
The picture is similar in Washington, D.C. Seven charter schools in the district, spread between grade levels from elementary through high school and populations from traditional students to special education and majority low-income, were found to have a narrow achievement gap where one existed at all. This is a smaller achievement gap than 90 percent of cities in the United States, and it is no coincidence that this happened in a city that has been ranked the second friendliest for school choice.
Amelia Hamilton is a blogger and author of the Growing Patriots children's books. A lifelong writer and patriot, she also loves hockey, old cars, old movies and apple juice. Amelia has a master’s degree in both English and 18th-century history from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Her dog Virgil is her co-pilot.