Oakland Charter-run and District-run schools by the Numbers

Thank you OUSD for throwing some hard numbers into the charter school debates.  While I missed 2/22/16 Board engagement session (I was in NYC), I did look at the materials.

Big takeaways; students at charter-run schools tend to perform somewhat better on state tests and be more economically disadvantaged.  While district-run schools had somewhat greater percentages of special education students and those learning English.

I have to caution that this data is not an endpoint but a starting point, where we can dig deeper and really understand what is happening, and I hope that is how we use it.

Charter Demographics

Oakland has 44 charters of its 130 school portfolio, with a higher percentage of charters, 78.1%, being significantly low income (75% or higher free/reduced lunch) than district schools, which were at 56.1%.

I consolidated some of the categories and percentages below.

Race/ethnicity/group Charter run schools District run schools
African American 19.2% 29.5%
Asian 10.7% 10.6%
Latino 54.7% 42.9%
White 6.4% 10.5%
Other 8.9% 6.5%
English Learners 24.1% 29.6%
Students with IEPs 7.8% 11.6%


This confirms what many have known both good and bad.  First, charters have some work to do in serving Black children in Oakland. Part of this is geography, and the placement of schools.

The addition of Castlemont Community Transformation Schools and the expansion of KIPP to do elementary school in West Oakland will make some differences, but we need to keep working to meet the needs of these students, who really have been too often left behind in reform.

In a similar vein there were somewhat lower rates of special education students and English learners in charters than district schools.  And I know the numbers of each group vary widely from school to school, with some charters having 20% or more special education students, and others having very low numbers, same with English learners.

We will be looking much harder at these numbers over time to help tease out what really is happening.  And whether students at charters are less likely to be identified for services, or whether there is a more pushing out of higher needs students as critics have suggested.

Student performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessments

Charter-run District-run
Math 33.8% 20.4%
ELA 42.0% 24.5%


Students at charter-run schools outperformed on both math and ELA by between 13-22% respectively.  This is significant, but needs more analysis, and breaking apart by demographics.  We also look at the top performing schools in Oakland and a bit about their location.  With all of the top performing charter schools being Flatlands schools.


Charter run % proficient Hills/


District-run % proficient Hills/


Oakland Charter High (83%) Flatlands Peralta Elementary (81%) Hills, but its debatable by geography
Downtown Charter Academy (76%) Flatlands Chabot Elementary (79%) Hills
American Indian Public High (74%) Flatlands Hillcrest Elementary (79%) Hills


I appreciate getting some facts to start to analyze and move what has been a very hot debate around charters in Oakland that did not have much light.  We need to keep digging as a community to understand the numbers and make the best choices we can, so that every child gets the best chance at a great school, with one eye trained on equity and the other squarely on quality.

This was a good first step in a long journey.

What do you think?

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