(The Center Square) – Arizona's charter schools, if separated from their public school counterparts, have eighth graders that perform at higher levels than nearly any other state.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as the Nation's Report Card, found that Arizona district and charter students scored at approximately the national average in fourth and eighth-grade math and reading NAEP testing.
But, the analysis found that eighth-grade charter school students in Arizona significantly outperformed others. If Arizona eighth-grade charter school students were a separate state, they would rank first nationally in math and second in reading, only behind New Jersey.
"State and federal testing has repeatedly demonstrated that Arizona charter schools and students consistently outperform their district counterparts, despite receiving nearly $2,000 less in per-pupil funding," Dr. Matthew Ladner, Director of the Arizona Center for Student Opportunity, said in a press release. "The past few years have been difficult for all schools, but we applaud Arizona charter schools for continuing to raise the bar for student achievement in our state."
The NAEP exam is usually given to a random sampling of fourth and eighth-grade students in every state each year. It was suspended in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the test resumed in 2022. The results also indicate that there has been a decline in academic progress due to the government's reaction to the pandemic, particularly in math.
In Arizona, fourth-grade students in both district and charter schools saw a decline in mathematics and reading scores in that stretch.
However, on eighth-grade math and reading, Arizona charter students scored about one full grade level better than their district peers.
"Arizona charter schools helped lead our state's academic recovery following the Great Recession," Dr. Ladner said in the release. "The challenges Arizona students now face are arguably even bigger now, but I am confident in the creativity, innovation and expertise of the charter sector to once again lead the way."