Last week, WFYI reported that Hoosier Academies Virtual Charter School is slated to close in June, due to consistently poor performance. For example, its 2016 graduation rate was 23 percent. Hoosier Academy is not the only online charter school to struggle with low graduation rates. Using information from the Indiana Dept. of Education, we reviewed graduation rates for charter high schools and traditional public high schools in Marion County.
From 2011 to 2016, the average charter school had graduation rates around 48 percent, while the average traditional public school had graduation rates of 81-83 percent.
Demographics can heavily impact a schools graduation rates, so we broke down the data by race. This data is for 2016 graduation rates. The difference in performance persists when dis-aggregated by race. Graduation rates for black students in traditional public schools are twice that of charter schools. For white students, the rate is 1.7 times higher for traditional public schools than for charter schools. Hispanic students were not shown for charter schools because there numbers were to small to show data for several schools.
However, there are many different types of charter schools and traditional public schools. This next chart breaks charters into two categories: brick and mortar schools and online schools. Traditional schools are divided into those in the Indianapolis Public Schools system and those in the other Marion County school systems. Brick and mortar charter schools exclude some schools that serve a unique population, like Excel Academy (which serves adults) and Hope Academy (which serves students recovering from addiction).
In 2016, traditional schools outside of IPS performed somewhat than IPS schools (83 percent graduation rate vs. 78 percent). Brick and mortar charter schools performed better than online schools (61 percent graduation rate vs. 24 percent), but still had markedly lower rates than traditional public schools.
Still, not all charter schools struggle with low graduation rates. Aggregating data can mask important outliers. (Even aggregating data for a single school can mask specific success stories.) This chart shows how each school type is distributed across graduation rates. There are two charter schools in Marion County with graduation rates above 90 percent, and six out of 20 charter schools have graduation rates above 70 percent.