Friday, January 23


Those questioning the efficacy of DC's charter school system might want to take a look at the official reports of the secondary charters. Most show a stunning disparity between the number of students and the number of graduates multiplied by the number of classes in the school. There are several possible reasons for this, one being that a school is growing rapidly and so there are more students in the younger classes. On the other hand, it may provide evidence of what some suspect: that charters are getting money on a per student basis and then dropping students or letting them drift away over the course of the year, students who may end up back within, and at the expense of, the traditional system.

For example, the Shaw campus of Maya Angelou had 119 students grades 9-12 in the fall of 2007, but only 16 graduates in 2008. If the students were evenly spaced you would have expected a total enrollment of only 64.

One of the Cesar Chavez campuses had 383 students in grades 9-12 in 2007 but only 63 graduates in 2008. If the students were evenly spaced you would have expected a total enrollment of only 252.

City Lights had 62 students in grades 9-12 in 2007 but only one graduate. And so on.

The other anomaly, which the Washington Post and city officials aren't letting you in on, are the number of these schools where the test scores have actually declined over the past year. The report is useful reading for public school advocates.

Update: It's just been announced that City Lights is closing.



At 3:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger incredulous said...

OSSE will have to do much more, but likely will not. The population of charter schools are much like the population of trade schools. Scamming is not unusual; but there are a number of honest players.
Who knows what the handsomely printed stats mean? Maya Angelou, Shaw Campus, to take an example, reports a "Graduation Rate" of 78.26, compared to a target of 66.23%.
Exquisite precision, isn't it? Who knows how many of the graduates were allowed to phone it in, how much is made up, whole cloth. And what it will take to have sufficient numbers of people care.

As for your speculation of transfers back to DCPS: Because of unique student identifiers, OSSE can track this. Again: "Who cares?" By which I mean the question sincerely, not as a disparagement of concern.
WTU members have been encouraged to engage in collective system-wide surveilance. They are unwilling to do so; the accuracy and bias of OSSE statistical reports cannot be checked; and so the prevalence of the transfer back to DCPS from charter schools is unknown.

Recognize every parent's first concern. As long as the child is perceived to be much safer in the charter than in the DCPS alternative, the charter is doing plenty. Can you blame them?

Nor is this unknown in DCPS. Do you doubt that schools in Ward 3 have long been sought by out-of-boundary parents as much for their safety, including before and after school, as for superior teaching?

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It probably is both. My experience looking at charter school stats in another state/city suggests that the best (most stable, those lacking a crisis or turnover in leadership, etc.) charter schools have a retention rate of only about 75 to 80% from one year to the next and that this "leakage" is generally made up in additional enrollment of new students. Additionally, there generally is a two to three year period in which charter schools grow, meaning that the school will generally add more classes, increasing the size of younger classes. In my area, the charter school experience is too young to complete a full cohort analysis--in other words, what is the likelihood a student entering K or 1st grade at one school will ned up graduating from that school in
5th/8th grade? However, the incomplete evidence that exists now suggests that some percentage of students will leave the school early. this could be because of creaming, but it could just as likely be because the school is deemed inadequate by the parent for a whole host of reasons.

I would think that new charter high schools are even problematic than new elementary schools, given the difficulties of starting a new school with new staff, a new school culture, and a new student body of varying levels of educational abilities and experiences.



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