enrollment

New York

Students in Rockaway schools go elsewhere, or nowhere at all

Just blocks away from P.S./M.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, a hard-hit neighborhood on the Rockaway peninsula, homes were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of students, mostly middle class, have fled their Far Rockaway schools to enroll somewhere else since Hurricane Sandy knocked the peninsula out of commission. But attendance data suggests that many other Far Rockaway students are simply not attending school in the first days that the city has provided schools for them. Attendance dropped slightly citywide today, from 87 percent on Wednesday to 82.6 percent, a decline that officials attributed to the snowstorm. "Attendance from both teachers and students, given the storm, was actually reasonably good," Mayor Bloomberg said during a news conference. The attendance rate fell more dramatically for students in 56 schools relocated because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Just 30 percent of students in those schools were in class today, while students in relocated schools had a 43 percent attendance rate on Wednesday, their first day back after the storm. Driving the decline was the addition of 13 new relocations that started today, all for Queens schools without power. Most of the schools without power are on the Rockaway peninsula, which still does not have subway service, and the Department of Education has been unable to muster enough buses to transport all students from the peninsula, instead offering to reimburse families who make their own way to school. Some of the schools where relocations began today posted attendance rates below 1 percent. Overall, in District 27 today, which contains several neighborhoods in addition to those on the Rockaway peninsula, 26 schools posted attendance rates below 20 percent.
New York

Charter school principal: Enrollment policies can skew scores

Two schools whose students have identical test scores would seem to perform differently if they have different enrollment practices, according to a chart produced by a city charter school leader. It's not only the teachers union that is arguing that charter schools' enrollment practices can influence their apparent test performance. Unlike district schools, charter schools can choose whether to replace students who leave. Charter schools that do not practice "backfill" can end up posting scores that make it look like their performance is better — or worse — than it really is, argues the founding principal of Harlem Link Charter School, Steven Evangelista. In the Community section, Evangelista explains that when schools opt not to fill empty seats, "survivorship bias" skews test scores toward the results of students who remain enrolled. The bias renders test scores meaningless, even dangerous, if the scores are not presented alongside context about a school's enrollment practices, he writes: Strong schools take the time required to plan, assess, and tweak new initiatives until they become standard operating procedures. The lack of information provided alongside scores obscures this type of growth, creating perverse incentives for schools to “push out” students who are low performers and to “quick fix” by whittling down large original cohorts to smaller groups of survivors, uncompromised by new admittees. Evangelista says Harlem Link replaces students who depart, knowing that test scores could be adversely affected, in order to keep its budget stable and fulfill its mission of serving needy students. Last year, he writes, the school got lucky: The students who left were, on average, lower-performing than the students who left the previous year, so the appearance of large test school gains was easy to come by. It's a phenomenon that the teachers union has been particularly eager to put onto the agenda. After the city released elementary and middle school progress reports for last year on Monday, the union distributed a fact sheet noting high student attrition rates at several top-scoring charter schools. At South Bronx Classical Charter School, for example, between 20 and 40 percent of students that originally enrolled left before they were tested, and no new students replaced them, the union pointed out.
New York

Families seeking last-minute school spots flood pop-up offices

A family approaches the entrance to a student registration center at Brooklyn Technical High School. Each summer, the education department opens 10 registration sites around the city for students who are new to the school system. Patrick Chiriboga sought a public school spot after withdrawing from Catholic school after ninth grade. Brownsville's Rose Sistrunk wanted to enroll her daughters into new schools as the family prepared to move from a homeless shelter into permanent housing. And Canarsie's Kathleen Ettienne hoped her daughter would land in a school that was better than the charter school she had left. Chiraboga, Sistrunk, and Ettienne are among the thousands of parents and students who will pass through New York City's 10 temporary student registration centers this year. The registration centers opened at the end of August and will stay open well into this month to serve families who are still looking for schools as the new year gets underway. On the first day that the centers opened this year, Aug. 28, staffers stationed at Prospect Heights' Clara Barton High School estimated they saw 300 students. At Theodore Roosevelt Educational Campus in the Bronx, that number was closer to 450, workers there estimated. Days later, there were again dozens of families lined up along East Fordham Road when the enrollment center opened its doors for the day. Department officials did not provide total numbers of how many students citywide passed through the doors at the registration centers last week, but site supervisors said they expected an even larger influx this week. Each year, about 50,000 students enroll in city schools "over the counter," or after the regular enrollment cycle, many of them in the first weeks of the school year. Many of the families are new to the city’s school system after moving from elsewhere or withdrawing from private schools. They are the intended targets for the registration centers, which also help families who are seeking to transfer schools within the system. The Department of Education's welcome mat “For a lot of these families, it’s their first experience with this bureaucracy and we want to be here and let them know that they’re not alone,” said Henry Eiser, who is working at Brooklyn Technical High School, one of three registration centers in Brooklyn.
New York

Moskowitz to authorizers: Reject high-need enrollment targets

The head of one of the city's largest charter school networks is calling on state charter authorizers to reject a law that requires schools to serve a larger share of high-needs students. The law, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz wrote in a letter to authorizers this month, creates "perverse incentives" for charter schools to "over-identify" students in high-needs categories, an effect that she said would do more harm than good for children. "We urge you not to impose any enrollment and retention targets," Moskowitz wrote to the New York State Education Department and SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which are charged with enforcing the law. "Instead, we request that you partner with us in going to Albany to change this poorly-thought-out legislation." The mandate for charter schools to enroll more high-needs students was established in 2010 when lawmakers passed the Race to the Top bill. A charter sector self-assessment earlier this year found that a large majority of charter schools still served lower proportions of poor, special-needs and English language learning students than their districts. It's taken some time to iron out the details, but last month authorizers proposed a method of calculating the targets that they intend to use. The proposal is a complex methodology that would assign enrollment targets to each charter school based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in school districts where they operate. Schools that repeatedly fail to comply could be closed.
New York

High-needs enrollment targets could challenge some charters

A screenshot from the state's proposed enrollment targets calculator. It shows the range of target enrollments for a school enrolling 150 students in Brooklyn's District 15. The state is preparing to take a step forward in implementing a two-year-old clause in its charter school law that requires the schools to serve their fair share of high-needs students. When legislators revised the charter school law in 2010, their main objective was to increase the number of charters allowed. But they also added a requirement that charter schools enroll “comparable” numbers of students with disabilities and English language learners, populations that the schools typically under-enroll. What comparability would mean has never been clear — until now. Last week, the state unveiled a proposed methodology for calculating enrollment targets, and it intends to finalize the algorithm at next month’s meeting of SUNY’s Board of Trustees, which oversees charter schools. The targets would vary from school to school and be determined based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in each district. The proposal includes a calculator that determines enrollment targets for any school based on its location, the grades it serves, and the size of its student body. Under the proposed methodology, a charter school with 400 students in grades five through eight in Upper Manhattan’s District 6, for example, would have to enroll 98 percent students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 15 percent students with disabilities, and 44 percent ELLs. In District 2, which has more affluent families and fewer immigrants, a similar school would be expected to enroll 64 percent poor students and 13.4 percent ELLs. But it would still need to have 15 percent of students with special needs.