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Report Looks at Vacancies in Older Grades in City's Charter Schools

Report Looks at Vacancies in Older Grades in City's Charter Schools

In New York City, charter schools can oftentimes be a controversial subject. While some charter school networks in the city, such as Success Academy, boast the top scores in reading and math, its practices to achieve these scores have come under fire as of late.

In the latest controversy, a recently released report from the Independent Budget Office looks at how often charter schools filled vacancies from students who left from the school years between 2008 and 2014.

"A new report from the city’s education-data watchdog offers the clearest look yet at how the charter schools 'backfill' their seats, an issue that has become a focus of debates about whether those schools serve the city’s neediest students," according to The New York Chalkbeat.

Some have argued in the past that charter schools fail to serve the city's neediest students- a goal of most networks looking to provide school choice to families- because they do not "backfill" their seats after students leave. In other words, when a student leaves, the charter school does not provide this spot to a student in need but rather focuses on the reduced class size to achieve the best test scores. According to The NY Chalkbeat:

Charter schools aren’t required to replace that student with another, and some choose not to — a practice that some observers, including the city teachers union, say is a reason why their student populations are less needy and why some charter schools achieve better academic results than nearby district schools. (Charter schools that don’t backfill say it avoids academic and social disruption, and ensures that all of their students can keep up.)

Indeed, the IBO report looked at 53 charter schools in the city and 3,000 students from kindergarten to 5th grade and found that only 23 schools backfilled all or almost all of its vacated seats after the 3rd grade.

While nearly all schools filled vacancies in the earlier grades, this dropped significantly from third grade on because it is the first year standardized tests are required in reading and math.

The report did not look at backfill in middle schools, though some schools — most prominently, the Success Academy network — have come under fire for not adding students who didn’t start at the network in younger grades. The data shows one outcome of Success’ approach: just 32 students took the eighth-grade exams in 2014, part of the network’s first cohort of students, and their average raw score was higher than every other charter network’s in reading and math.

The debate covers a lot of issues with the current state of education: the over-reliance on test scores, the effectiveness of charter schools and school choice, and the responsibility to ensure the neediest students a good education.

Important to note, however, "Ray Domanico, the IBO’s director of education research, cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from the analysis, noting that the group of schools he looked at was relatively small and did not count the 137 schools that have opened since 2008," the article said.

He said as time goes on, charter schools will become easier to study.

Read the full article here and comment your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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