in Albany, Buffalo, Charter Schools, City Schools, Education, New York, Rochester, Syracuse, Upstate New York

Charter Schools in Upstate New York Cities – How Well Do Their Students Perform?

Students in upstate city school districts performed particularly poorly in New York’s Grades 3-8 Student Mathematics Assessments, with fewer than one in five receiving proficient scores in Rochester, Syracuse, Monticello, East Ramapo, Schenectady, Poughkeepsie, and Binghamton. Less than three in ten passed in Buffalo, Elmira, Hempstead, Niagara Falls, Albany, and Rome. More than 60% passed in surrounding suburbs. See my most recent post, “Students in Large Upstate Cities Performed Poorly on the Most Recent State Assessments.”

School Districts with 1,000 or more students. Data is from the 2022-2023 New York State Grades 3-8 Annual Student Assessments. Comparison is with school districts outside New York City.

Although economically disadvantaged students perform less well than others nationally, students in these large New York districts performed less well than those in comparable districts with the same percentage of poor pupils. In places like Monticello, Gloversville, Fulton, and Rome, the percentage of students who attained proficient scores on the state test was more than 10% lower than would be predicted based on the rate of disadvantaged students. (Note that in my prior post concerning student performance in upstate cities, comparisons were with all school districts in the state, including New York City. Here, they are with districts outside New York City).

District-operated schools saw a wide performance divergence in the 2022-2023 academic year. On average, outside New York City, only about one in five students at schools where 90% of students were disadvantaged achieved proficient scores on the state’s grades three through eight mathematics test, compared with four of five where only 10% were disadvantaged. In this case, 64% of the variation in performance between schools was associated with the percentage of economically disadvantaged students. The percentage of economically disadvantaged students in school districts with 1,000 or more students outside New York City was associated with 78% of the difference in student performance between districts.

School environment is not the only factor associated with the poor performance of disadvantaged students. Both underprivileged students and those who aren’t disadvantaged performed better in environments with low percentages of underprivileged students, but needy students benefit less. Conversely, for students who are not disadvantaged, the difference in performance between schools with few and many underprivileged students is more significant.

This post evaluates the post-pandemic performance of district-operated schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students and charter schools in 2022-2023, compared with schools with few disadvantaged students. It examines student performance on New York’s grades 3-8 mathematics evaluations. The results of the English language exams will be discussed in a future post.

Charter Schools vs. District-Operated Schools

Though much of the underperformance of disadvantaged students arises from factors outside the control of schools, including poor parenting practices, single parenting, parents’ irregular work schedules, and inadequate primary and preventive care, charter schools were established to provide alternative learning settings in the hope that they could improve disadvantaged student performance.

Advocates of charter schools—public schools that are independently operated by organizations other than school districts—have argued that allowing parents to choose them as alternatives can provide better education options. Data from New York’s annual educational assessments shows that, on average, charter schools’ disadvantaged student performance was 12% better than average district-operated schoolswith the same percentage of disadvantaged students, but performance varied. Of 49 charter schools outside New York City, 13 had proficiency rates of 50% or more. But 17 had rates of 25% or less.

Charter schools employ differing learning strategies. Some, like New York City’s Success Academies, have been notably successful, using a highly structured focus on maintaining student attention and teaching to testing. Others have done less well – in some cases, performance has been inferior to typical district-operated schools with high percentages of disadvantaged students. Outside New York City, 39% of charter schools had lower proficiency rates than the average for district-operated schools, controlling for the percentage of students who were economically disadvantaged.

Because schools in upstate cities have high percentages of disadvantaged students, schools with 60% or more underprivileged students were examined separately. In this group, controlling for the rate of needy students, disadvantaged students at charter schools performed 15% better than students at district-operated schools—38% vs. 23% proficient. However, charter school performance again varied significantly. Seventeen of 45 performed below the average for district schools.

Disadvantaged Student Performance in Upstate Cities

In upstate cities, disadvantaged students at the best-performing charter schools did much better than the average for district-operated schools, but student performance was weaker at others.


Disadvantaged students at charter schools in Albany, on average, performed better than those at district-operated schools. Two performed much better than expected based on the overall trend: Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, with 44% passing, and Henry Johnson Charter School, with 52% passing. In neighboring Troy, Kipp Troy Prep School students also did well, with half passing. Disadvantaged students did not perform as well at two charter schools, controlling for economic disadvantage.

Eight of 13 district-operated schools did not perform as well as the state average. At one, the Albany School of Humanities, disadvantaged students did exceptionally well, with 61% passing.


Overall, disadvantaged students performed better at Buffalo charter schools than district-operated schools. However, charter schools’ performance was quite varied. Forty-nine percent of the disadvantaged students had proficient scores at the King Center Charter School, and 54% were proficient at the West Buffalo Charter School. Seven of 16 charter schools did worse than the statewide trend, controlling for economic disadvantage.

Nineteen of 35 district-operated schools did less well than expected. Among the best-performing district-operated schools were the Frederick Olmstead #156 school, with 56% of disadvantaged students passing, and PS 74 – Hamlin Park, with 45% passing, despite 100% of students tested being disadvantaged.


Rochester is notable for the extremely high percentage of economically disadvantaged students in its schools —91% of those tested. Student performance in the district is abysmal, with 10% of underprivileged students receiving proficient scores and only 31% of students who were not disadvantaged passing. At 28 of 31 district-operated schools, a smaller percentage of disadvantaged students were proficient than expected, controlling for the percentage of students who were economically disadvantaged.

At three charter schools, more than half of disadvantaged students received proficient scores – at Discovery Academy, 75% passed; at True North Rochester Prep School, 62% passed, and 70% were proficient at the Rochester Prep Charter School. At True North Prep Community School, 46% passed. Seven of 12 charter schools were below the average, controlling for the percentage of disadvantaged students. At the Urban Choice Charter School, 7% passed, and at the Rochester Academy Charter School, 9% passed.


The percentage of students in the Syracuse school district who were economically disadvantaged in 2022-2023 was 85%. Like Rochester, student performance was very weak, with only 10% of underprivileged students receiving proficient scores. Only 35% of students who were not disadvantaged passed.

At twenty-three of twenty-five district-operated schools, underprivileged students underperformed the average for schools outside New York City, controlling for student economic disadvantage. Students at one of two charter schools in Syracuse outperformed the average for district-operated schools, but on average, only about one in four students received proficient scores. At the best-performing charter school in Syracuse, the Syracuse Academy of Science, 29% of disadvantaged students were proficient. At the Citizenship-Science Academy, 21% passed.

Other Outstanding Charter Schools

Several other charter schools had outstanding performance by disadvantaged students, including:

  • Yonkers: Academy Charter School. 64% of students were disadvantaged, 66% of disadvantaged students passed.
  • Mount Vernon: Intellectus Preparatory Charter School. 56% of students were disadvantaged, 69% passed.
  • Calverton: Riverhead Charter School. 60% of students were disadvantaged, 61% passed.
  • Roosevelt: Roosevelt Children’s Academy. 84% of students were disadvantaged, 41% passed.


Living in an economically disadvantaged family predicts relatively poor student performance—whether in affluent or poor communities. Disadvantaged students living outside upstate central cities averaged a passing rate of about 40%. Living in an upstate city school district where high percentages of students are poor is associated with worse test outcomes for both disadvantaged students and those who aren’t. As few as 10% of disadvantaged students were proficient in Syracuse and Rochester.

Disadvantaged students at charter schools in each large upstate city did better on average than those at district-operated schools, controlling for the percentage of underprivileged students – on average, 25% of disadvantaged students at charter schools were proficient. Students at 59% of charter schools did better than the average of district schools, controlling for the percentage of needy students. Still, at only 20% of charter schools, half or more of students were proficient, and more than 40% were proficient at less than one-third.

Given the role played by non-school factors in the performance of economically disadvantaged students, we should temper our expectations for their success. When peers do not place a high value on learning, and parents lack the resources to support educational growth, schools face significant challenges in helping students learn.

Parents who consider charter schools a better setting for student academic growth should choose carefully to find those that offer real benefits and must partner with their children’s teachers to increase the likelihood of good educational outcomes.

Write a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.