Dear Commons Community,
The New York City Independent Budget Office issued a report yesterday examining attrition and retention of students in charter schools and nearby traditional district schools. While the sample was small, the most telling statistic was that 80% of special-needs kids who enroll as kindergartners in city charter schools leave by the time they reach third grade. The publicly funded, privately operated charter schools, which enroll 6% of city students, hold on to general education students at a slightly higher rate than district schools, according to the study, which covered retention rates for kindergarten through third grade. The report followed students from 2008 to 2011. About 70% of students attending charter schools in the 2008-2009 school year remained in the same school three years later, compared with 61% of kids at district schools.
Critics have said for years that charters push out needy kids and serve fewer difficult students. The report comments (see Table I) that the main differences regarding student composition between charters and traditional public schools lie in the rates of serving special education students and English language learner (ELL) students. About 7 percent of kindergarten students in nearby traditional public schools are special education students; the share in charter schools is less than 1 percent. The difference in rates of serving ELL students is similarly large—18 percent in traditional public schools compared with 4 percent in charter schools. These differences have been noted in other studies of charter schools in New York City.