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Student Performance in Upstate Cities in 2022-2023: Combined Data

The academic performance of disadvantaged students has long been of concern. In district-operated schools outside New York City, only 31% of disadvantaged students passed the state’s grades 3-8 student evaluations in mathematics and English language arts in 2022-2023. Sixty-one percent of students who were not disadvantaged passed. In schools with high percentages of disadvantaged students, the picture was even more dismal. At district-operated schools where 90% of students or more were disadvantaged, less than 20% passed. Nearly half of students (48%) tested were economically disadvantaged outside New York City.

District-operated schools outside New York City. Source: New York State Education Department, “Report Card Database.”

Because economically disadvantaged students, particularly those in districts with high concentrations, perform poorly, charter schools were created to offer an alternative that might provide better educational opportunities. This post examines their performance and the performance of district-operated schools on New York’s annual third through eighth-grade student assessments in mathematics and English language arts.

According to the State Department of Education, nearly half (48%) of students outside New York City were economically disadvantaged in 2022-2023. The Department defines Economically disadvantaged students [as] those who participate in, or whose family participates in, economic assistance programs, such as the free or reduced-price lunch programs, Social Security Insurance (SSI), Food Stamps, Foster Care, Refugee Assistance (cash or medical assistance), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Safety Net Assistance (SNA), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), or Family Assistance: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).”

The column labeled “Expected % Proficient” in the table above is the percentage of disadvantaged students who attained proficient scores at typical schools, with the same percentage of underprivileged students as those in the measured school.

Sixty-three percent (100,817) of economically disadvantaged students in New York outside New York City at schools with high concentrations (70% or more) of underprivileged students are in the ten districts shown in the table above: Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers, Syracuse, Brentwood, East Ramapo, Utica, Schenectady, Central Islip, and Albany. In this group of school districts, only 22% of disadvantaged students attending district-operated schools passed the state’s grades three through eight mathematics and English language assessments.

Charter school advocates have argued that these independently operated schools can offer an alternative that provides more educational opportunities for disadvantaged children, particularly in central cities. While there are hundreds of charter schools in New York City, there are only 50 in New York State outside the city. Of the large city districts with high concentrations of disadvantaged students, only Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse had charter schools.


Only 19% of disadvantaged students at district-operated schools in Albany passed the state’s grades 3-8 annual assessment. At one of the city’s schools, Delaware Community School, less than 10% passed; at seven schools, less than 20% passed. At the Albany School of Humanities, 47% passed, 19% more than at typical schools with the same percentage of disadvantaged students. Disadvantaged students at Montessori Magnet School also did well, with 44% passing, but because only 28% of tested students were disadvantaged, performance was no better than expected.

Twenty-eight percent of charter school students passed the annual assessment, but school performance varied. At two charter schools, Henry Johnson Charter School and Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, 48% passed. Performance was more than 20% better than expected based on the percentage of disadvantaged students at both schools. Disadvantaged student performance at the other three charter schools was undistinguished. At the Albany Leadership Charter School for Girls, only 16% passed, 10% less than at typical schools where 73% of students were disadvantaged.


Eighty-six percent of tested students at district-operated schools in Buffalo were economically disadvantaged. Performance at district-operated and charter schools in Buffalo was similar, with 24% of underprivileged students passing at district-operated schools and 28% passing at charters. However, performance varied significantly at each type of school. Over half of students passed the exam at three district-operated schools; at two, between 40% and 50% passed. But at thirteen schools, less than 20% passed, and at four schools, less than 10% passed.

Among charter schools, the passing rate was 56% at the West Buffalo Charter School and 43% at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School II. At four charter schools, less than 20% of tested students passed,

Rochester district-operated schools had the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the cities studied here – 91%. On average, disadvantaged student performance at district-operated schools in Rochester was poorer than in other upstate cities. Only 12% of tested students passed the state’s annual assessment. Less than one in five disadvantaged students passed at thirty of the thirty-four district-operated schools. At the best-performing school, the School of the Arts, 27% passed.

Four high-performing charter schools, Discovery Charter School, True North Rochester Prep, True North Rochester Prep-West, and Rochester Prep Charter School, present a strong argument for their effectiveness. At each, more than 40% of disadvantaged students were proficient in mathematics and English—substantially higher than would be expected based on the percentage of minority students in their classes. Even so, student performance was similar to district-operated schools at seven other charter schools in the city. At four charter schools, less than 20% of disadvantaged students passed. Overall, 28% of underprivileged students in Rochester charter schools passed the state assessment.


Eighty-five percent of students at district-operated schools were economically disadvantaged. Disadvantaged student performance at district-operated schools in Syracuse was nearly as weak as in Rochester, with only 13% passing. At 20 of 24 schools, less than one in five disadvantaged students passed. At six schools, less than one in ten passed. At Seymour Dual Language Academy, only one percent passed. At no school did half of disadvantaged students pass the exam. At the best-performing school, Syracuse Latin School, 38% did.

Twenty-seven percent of disadvantaged students at charter schools in Syracuse passed the state assessment. Although both the charter schools in the city were among those where underprivileged students’ performance was strongest, only 30% passed at Syracuse Academy of Science, and 23% passed at Citizenship-Science Academy Charter School.


The performance of economically disadvantaged students in New York State outside New York City on the state’s 2022-2023 grades three through eight mathematics and English language arts exams was poor, with only 30% passing. Students living in school districts with high percentages of disadvantaged students were less likely to pass the assessment than those who lived in districts with low percentages – on average, less than 20% passed in school districts where 90% of students were disadvantaged. Given the high rate of underprivileged students in cities like Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, it is not surprising that one in five or fewer disadvantaged students passed.

The poor performance of the disadvantaged primarily reflects factors outside the schools’ control. These include the high percentage of single-parent households, parental work schedules that limit their ability to support their children’s learning, and parenting practices that impede children’s intellectual and behavioral development.

Although several charter schools were notably successful in helping disadvantaged students reach higher levels of achievement on state tests, the performance of most did not differ substantially from schools that are part of a district-operated system. Less than 30% of charter school students attained proficiency on the assessments. Still, disadvantaged students at eight charter schools of the 49 in this study performed substantially better than the average; seven district-operated schools reached the same level.

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