Mobility Report

City reveals elusive data for 13 charter schools: How many students leave each year

City education officials released data on Monday that until now has been hard to come by: The number and percentage of students who leave some of its charter schools during the school year.

The city’s reports, released Monday to the Board of Regents, only include data for 13 charter schools. But they show wide variation in average student mobility rates at those schools, from under 5 percent of students leaving between the 2010-11 and 2013-14 school years to more than 21 percent, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of the data. The numbers represent a win for the Board of Regents, which has long been pushing for more transparency around charter school enrollment.

The numbers also provide new fodder for a long-simmering debate around charter school enrollment patterns. Critics of charter schools have said one reason that some charter schools outperform district schools on state tests is because a larger number of their students — typically the ones who are the least academically proficient — leave during the school year. Those students usually end up in a nearby district school, and charter schools aren’t required to replace students they lose.

One of those critics is Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who said last year, “There shouldn’t be a whole movement out of charters the month before the test.”

But the limited student mobility data challenges that argument, to a degree. The schools with the highest average mobility rates over the past four years are also the ones that are performing the worst academically.

At Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School, for instance, just 10 percent of students were proficient on the state English exam and 13 percent were proficient in math. But the school lost an average of 21 percent of its students in each of the past four years, the most of any other school on the report.

The school with the second-highest attrition rate was Imagine Me Leadership Charter School, with 19 percent attrition. The city recommended that both schools only receive a 1.5-year renewal, which means they could be closed at the end of the 2015-16 school year if they do not improve.

A third school recommended for a probationary renewal, Lefferts Gardens Charter School, had a 15 percent average student attrition.

Democracy Prep Harlem Charter School, for which the city recommended a longer-term renewal, also showed high mobility, with an average of almost 19 percent of students leaving each year. The school lost nearly 30 percent of its students during the 2012-13 school year.

Still, the reports lack several valuable insights. While they show what percentage of students left a charter school in each of the last four school years, it does not say how those numbers compare to average student attrition in district schools.

The reports also don’t say whether those students were replaced, an issue that has divided the charter school sector, or indicate whether the exiting students were less proficient academically.

You can read the full report here.

Four-year average student attrition rates (2010-11 — 2013-14 school years)
Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science: 21.1%
Imagine Me Leadership: 19%
Democracy Prep Harlem: 18.9%
Hyde Leadership — Brooklyn: 15.8%
Leffert Gardens: 15.2%
Bed-Stuy New Beginnings: 14.4%
Bushwick Ascend: 13.1%
Renaissance Charter HS for Innovation: 13%
Rochdale Early Advantage: 12.3%
Hellenic Classical: 8.9%
Inwood Leadership: 5.6%
Riverton Street: 4.8%

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”