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Charter sector report delayed weeks while schools verify data

Last week, I reported that the city’s charter school sector was on the verge of releasing a trove of data about its schools. I began my reporting after I learned about the plan in February, and a week ago, I learned that the organization in charge of the report had big plans for the report’s release.

The organization, the New York City Charter School Center, sent an advisory a week ago announcing Monday as the big day and inviting reporters to an 11 a.m. press conference to learn about the report, which would compile data about the schools’ performance and their students. But those plans were scrapped over the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon a spokeswoman for the charter school center emailed to say that the “State of the Sector” report was being delayed because all of the data had not been verified.

Now, four days after the promised release, the report is still not out. The spokeswoman, Kerri Lyon, said the report would now come “within a few weeks” and that the center would release the overview report at the same time as it publishes individual school-level data online.

The delay is a surprise because a 12-person committee made up of charter school operators led by the center’s policy director, Michael Regnier, was already charged with verifying the data in the report. Lyon said Thursday that charter schools were now validating some of the data about their own schools before the report’s release.

Initially, the charter center, which supports and advocates on behalf of the city’s 136 charter schools, wanted to release findings on the steps of City Hall, a spokeswoman told me earlier in the week. By last week, that plan had been scaled back to a press conference at the center’s midtown office.

I reported that some of the data set for release could make the charter school sector uncomfortable. Alongside the test scores that the sector frequently cites to promote the schools, the report was to include data points often used to criticize the schools, such as student demographic information and student and teacher attrition rates.

But the report could hardly have come as a shock to the charter schools. A lunch meeting in February when KIPP CEO Richard Barth discussed the value of data transparency drew representatives from a wide swath of city charter schools, including most of the major networks that operate multiple schools.

The data being released are already publicly available but are spread out across several different sources that collect school information. For instance, while the city Department of Education posts information about charter schools’ test scores and graduation rates, data about student demographics are found only in reports published intermittently by the charter schools’ authorizers.