More information on Georgia's Charter Schools

Georgia's charter schools see gains educating diverse students By D. Aileen Dodd with the Atlanta Constitution

An annual report on Georgia's charter schools in 2009 found that many of the campuses were outperforming surrounding schools even though the charters enrolled large populations of poor students.

The report released at a Georgia Board of Education meeting this week showed that most charter schools, which enroll higher concentrations of African-Americans, Asians and poor students on average, are seeing gains on standardized test scores.

State school board members and administrators praised the high-performers for their success, saying data show that charters are effective. They encouraged leaders of charter schools and traditional schools to share information so the two can learn techniques from each other that can benefit student achievement.

Georgia has 121 approved charter schools with nearly 65,000 students. Nationwide, there are 4,900 charter schools and 1.7 million students.

"The first thing we can do is stop this notion that there is some great rivalry between the two," said Kathy Cox, superintendent of Georgia schools. "What people are seeing is that a charter school is a public school. It might be governed differently, but it is serving a need ... and getting results. We are not letting a fly-by -night organization come along and take public money and create an entity that is housing kids and not getting the job done. ... They are in fact educating kids."

In 2009, Georgia's charter schools:

- Educated 4 percent of the state's public school students.

- Had 85 percent of schools make Adequate Yearly Progress goals for students.

- Had a high school graduation rate of 81 percent.

- Had 12 schools offering an International Baccalaureate program

- Had eight schools offering single-gender classes or campus populations.

- Had 19 career academies offering special training.

- Had 85 percent of schools meet or exceed district performance rate on the high school graduation test in English and language arts and 60 percent meet or exceed the district in reading/English/language arts on the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

- Had a total population of 43 percent African-American (compared with 38 percent statewide); 10 percent Hispanic (the same as statewide) and 4 percent Asian (compared with 3 percent statewide.)

- Had 60 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch compared with 53 percent statewide.