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June 22, 2010
Map Alert: School Closures, 2003 – Present
As summer gets underway, I’ve decide to tackle some big projects — one of which is to look at the effects that school closures…
June 9, 2010
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.
May 11, 2010
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.
April 29, 2010
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.
April 16, 2010
Trust Falls: Teacher Responses to the Learning Environment Survey
Yesterday, the Post published an article exposing a principal at PS 38 who tried to pressure her staff into giving her a good review on the annual Learning Environment Survey. This prompted Joel Klein to respond that he doubted teachers bowed to principal pressure since the surveys are anonymous. To investigate how teachers rated their principals, we looked at responses to four questions from last year's Learning Environment Survey: How much do you agree/disagree? The principal places the learning needs of children above other interests. How much do you agree/disagree? The principal is an effective manager who makes the school run smoothly. How much do you agree/disagree? I trust the principal at his/her word. To what extent do you feel supported by your principal? We found that the majority of teachers rate their principals highly. For instance, over 85 percent of the teachers who responded to the survey agreed that their principal supported them.
April 14, 2010
Charter School Lottery Statistics
Mid-April marks the beginning of the charter school lottery season, and with it, news reports of staggering numbers of applications to schools with limited slots. Already, the Post reported that 3,800 students applied for 588 spots in the Achievement First charter schools. In order to review the results for past lotteries, I submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the State Education department, who provided us with the Basic Education Data System (BEDS) data that all charters file with the state. I found that applications to charter schools have increased by 50% since 2007, with over 50,000 applications submitted last year. By comparison, enrollment in charters has only increased by 40% to just shy of 40,000 students last year. The chances of getting admitted to a charter school in New York City have declined from an average acceptance rate of 36% in 2008-2009 to a rate of 28% in 2009-2010. A full spreadsheet of the admissions data, with statistics for individual schools, is available here.
March 26, 2010
NYC Teacher Distribution by Years of Service
Joel Klein recently announced the number of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool, including a breakdown of teachers by years of service. One common question is how these numbers compare to the overall distribution of active DOE teachers. Using information from the DOE, I found that younger teachers are underrepresented in the ATR pool at 13 percent versus 29 percent of active teachers. Teachers with 15 to 25 years of service are overrepresented in the ATR pool, at 31 percent versus 19 percent of the active teachers. The current breakdown of active teachers in the DOE as well as the breakdown of teachers in the ATR pool are shown in the pie charts below.
March 19, 2010
Charter School Spending Compared to DOE Spending
A longstanding selling point of the charter school movement has been budget independence — that is, schools are given the freedom to allocate resources as they see fit, relatively free from government control. We decided to explore how this freedom is affecting allocation decisions. We analyzed the spending breakdown, specifically as it relates to teacher salaries and classroom instruction expenditures, and found that, on average, charter schools devote 10 percent more of their budgets to teacher salaries and 14 percent more of their budgets to classroom instruction as compared to the Department of Education's budget for traditional schools. A full spreadsheet with individual school budgets, the total DOE budget, and our calculations is available here.
March 9, 2010
Spending at Co-Located Schools
Buried on the Department of Education’s website is a page that lists per pupil spending on a school-wide, district-wide, and system-wide basis. Using this information, as well as expense data from the 2007-2008 audits and the recent Independent Budget Office report, we compared spending by charter schools and traditional public schools that are located in the same building. We found that charter schools spent $365 less per pupil than their co-located traditional public schools in 2007-2008. You can see our calculations in a workbook here. Some notes on our methodology: We looked only at the amount the co-located traditional public school spent per pupil on their general education students (which includes part-time but not full-time special education students). This is because while charter schools do enroll special needs students, very few offer all-day special education classes. For reference, we included the numbers for overall per-pupil and full-time special education spending in our database.
January 14, 2010
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.
January 11, 2010
Charter School Philanthropy 2009
In a post last spring, Ken reviewed some philanthropy statistics for New York City charter schools. This post reviews the updated statistics based on the 2008-2009 audited financial statements for 77 charter schools and adds a new comparison: the difference in philanthropy for charters schools that have non-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) versus those who don't. In this analysis, we found that schools with CMOs take in at least $1,734 per pupil in philanthropic dollars, versus $994 per pupil in non-CMO schools — a $740 difference. We've summarized the rest of our results below, but you can see all of our calculations in this workbook. The total amount of philanthropic contributions to the 77 schools was $31,302,550. The total enrollment was 23,715. (Enrollment information was taken from the 2008-2009 Learning Environment Survey data, which seems to have the most comprehensive information.) This comes out to a per pupil contribution of $1,320 — a 9 percent drop from the 2007-2008 audits, which showed a per pupil contribution of $1,443. At the school level, the numbers were basically unchanged from last year. The average school philanthropy per pupil was $1,651 in 2007-2008 compared to $1,654 and the median school philanthropy per pupil was $1,092 compared to $1,081.
December 4, 2009
IRS Form 990s and Charter School Compensation
Kim Gittleson is a research assistant working with Ken Hirsh, a GothamSchools community writer and financial contributor. The IRS recently posted the Form 990 filings for the 2007-2008 school year. This form is the required federal filing for tax-exempt organizations, which include charter schools, and contains data about fundraising, spending, and leadership compensation. Since Form 990 filings are often difficult to find, I have compiled a database of the forms for 64 out of the 80 charter schools that were open in 2008. Of the 16 schools without Form 990s on record, fourteen are schools that opened in the fall of 2008 (and thus didn't have a 2007-2008 report). One school, East New York Preparatory Charter School, was open during the 2007-2008 school year but had no form available as of this writing. You can view a spreadsheet of the schools, their grades, the years in which they opened, and whether or not they filed a Form 990 here. The full database of all of the Form 990s is located here. Because these filings are often lengthy and complicated, I have attempted to analyze some of the information.
September 14, 2009
Raising our standards and evolving, with your help
While the school system limps toward a new governance structure, we at GothamSchools are shaking things up, too. To mark our first anniversary, we're adding new staff (have you noticed those shiny new bylines?), excessing old ones, paying the bills in a new way, and changing up our content delivery model. We also plan to throw a party, at which we hope you'll help us celebrate our continued existence despite the tough times. Finally — permit one more forced parallel? — this post marks a new era of transparency and reader input, because we are both telling you all about the changes and asking for your help in pulling them off. Please begin by enjoying our revised design, in which we distinguish between shorter dispatches and full-blown, robustly reported daily news stories. The shorter dispatches are indented and touched off by arrows, as in the post below this one. The stories are in the same maroon-headed format that you're used to seeing blog posts. The goal is to hold ourselves to an even higher standard, truth-telling-wise, while still keeping you up to date on the minutiae of school news (who just went wild at a City Council hearing, what article we just read and recommend, a deep thought, a breaking news item).
July 8, 2009
Harlem lawmakers push for neighborhood-focused charter cap
Protestors at P.S. 123 yesterday applauded lawmakers pushing for limits on charter schools in Harlem. Eva Moskowitz, the C.E.O. of the Success Charter Network, was a particular target. (Photo screenshot from video below.) The next front for the Harlem school wars could be Albany. City Council member Inez Dickens yesterday proposed changing the state law to cap the number of charter schools that a single operator can open in a given school district. She was speaking at a protest against the Success charter school network's expansion into a traditional Harlem public school, P.S. 123. Dickens said she had the support of state Sen. Bill Perkins, and Keith Wright, an Assemblyman representing Harlem, said he would introduce legislation to make that change on his side of the legislature. A neighborhood- and operator-specific cap would add to what exists now, a cap on the number of charter schools across New York state at 200. There are 1,500 public schools in the city. Such a cap would also squarely challenge the strategy the Success Charter Network has pursued of opening a large number of charter schools in a designated area; Eva Moskowitz, the network's CEO, has said her goal is to open 40 Harlem charter schools in the next 10 years.
February 17, 2009
Teaching to the Test?
“Teaching to the Test” refers to the practice of teaching in a manner designed to improve test results at the expense of some superior form…
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