Ken Hirsh

New York

Augmenting the UFT’s “Vanishing Students” Report

I was very interested to read the UFT's latest report on charter school attrition in middle schools, as I've had trouble finding reliable statistics to track charter school students from year to year. The UFT report claims that state test data provides a fairly accurate method to track charter school attrition-that is, the number of students that leave a charter school. However, the report doesn't provide data on the number of students that a particular charter school decides to hold back, or "retain." Therefore, it can only provide information on testing cohort attrition — that is, the number of students that vanish from a testing group from year to year. I augmented the state test data with the numbers on retained students, which are available from the Basic Education Data System. (For more on BEDS, see this post.) The UFT report states: If students are being left back, then their entrance into the cohort of the lower grade should be reflected in the size of that cohort. That cohort might grow, for example. What happens instead, however, is that those cohorts too are generally shrinking as students move up in grades. Since the cohorts into which the vanishing students would be assigned are themselves shrinking, retention seems unlikely to be the major factor in cohort attrition. I confirmed with Jackie Bennett, the author of the UFT report, that she did not look at the BEDS data on retained students. This means that she couldn't consider retention from earlier grades that would reduce the numbers in these same cohorts. I found that when you consider the number of students retained each year in each grade, the majority of testing cohort attrition actually is due to retention of large numbers of students in both fifth and sixth grade.
New York

Closing the Gap: Charter School Special Education Stats

Last week, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would increase the number of charter schools in New York from 200 to 460. Included in the bill was a provision that charter schools increase efforts to enroll students with learning disabilities — an attempt to appease critics who claim that charters significantly under-enroll students with disabilities. Yet an examination of data provided to me by the city shows that while charters enroll fewer students with disabilities, the gap is not as large as initially reported by the state teachers union, known as NYSUT. According to Department of Education data, 13 percent of charter school students have an Individualized Education Plan, indicating that they have special needs, compared to 15 percent at traditional public schools. NYSUT reported the numbers as being 9.4 percent at charter schools and 16.4 percent at district schools. The discrepancy stems from problematic data NYSUT received from the state education department. According to the state, the number of students with disabilities that a charter school reports enrolling often does not match up with numbers reported by school districts. As a result, the state does not consider its own data to be reliable. As an alternative, I used a database known as CAPS, which is compiled by the city's Committee on Special Education. CAPS includes information about every student in the city who has an IEP, so it provides a more accurate breakdown of the number of special education students at each school. I found that the percentage of charter schools enrolling as many or more students with disabilities than their traditional public school counterparts increased from a quarter of schools last year to almost a third of schools this year.
New York

In and Out: Charter School Transfers

This is the second post in a series that looks at data from charter schools' Basic Education Data System reports. This data was provided to us by the New York State Education Department via a Freedom of Information Law request. A full spreadsheet with the data we used is available here. On Tuesday, the state teachers union released a report that said that charters in New York State had a student turnover rate of 8 to 10 percent each year. While statistics on overall turnover rates are hard to come by, data that city charter schools file with the state shows that one measure of transfer rate for city charter schools — that is, the number of students that transfer out of a charter school during the school year — is 6 percent. To be clear, this necessarily leaves out of the number of students who finished the school year but did not decide to return the following year. Overall, the rate of transfers decreased slightly from 7 percent in 2007-2008 to 6 percent in 2008-2009. Generally, the longer a school has been in existence, the lower its transfer rate. For instance, the NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industries had the highest transfer rate — 26 percent  — in 2008-2009, but it had only been open for one year. Achievement First Endeavor and Ross Global Institute had the highest rates in 2007-2008, 23 percent and 24 percent respectively. By 2008-2009, these numbers decreased to 15 percent at each school — numbers that are still higher than average. Some schools, such as Achievement First Crown Heights, Achievement First East New York, Community Partnership Charter School, KIPP Academy, and the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts, reported no transfers during both the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years. To look at the transfer rates at individual charter schools, you can scroll down the list below.
New York

Charter School Expenses 2009

Like we did last year, Ken Hirsh and I used the 2008-2009 financial audits to calculate charter school expenses per pupil for the 77 charter schools operating during the year. This provides a sense of how much charter schools are spending, using funds from philanthropy and other sources, above the $12,432 per pupil provided by the city Department of Education. We've found this number is often elusive or non-existent, so we've tried to rectify that situation here. Our main findings were that while total charter school expenses increased over the past year by 8 percent per pupil, the average amount spent by each charter school above the base level provided by the DOE was 13 percent less than in 2007-08. This could be partly be due to the decline in per pupil philanthropy, a trend we detailed in an earlier post, but we can't be sure. The workbook with all our calculations is available here. The total expenses for the 77 schools were $342,825,475 compared to $236,230,149 in 2007-2008 — a 45% increase, largely reflecting the significant increase in the number of charter school students. The per-pupil expenses for 2008-2009 were $14,456 — $1,095, or 8 percent more, than in 2007-2008. For the 2008-09 school year, the “base funding” per pupil, i.e. the fixed amount per pupil received from the DOE regardless of demographics, was $12,432. So spending on the average student was $2,024 above the base amount. This is $314 less than the $2,338 spent above the base in 2007-2008. Thus, while the base funding amount increased by 13 percent, from $11,023 to $12,432, the amount charter schools spent above these numbers was actually 13 percent less in 2008-09.