Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
This chart shows the outflow of students leaving charter schools in Harlem for a regular district school over three academic years -- from Fall, 2008 to Spring, 2011 -- and the inflow of former charter school students received by each district school during the same period.
Focused on Harlem, the neighborhood with the highest concentration of charter schools in the city, the chart reveals a steady churn of kids in and out of the local elementary and middle schools.
Here's what it does not show: student movement from charters to private and parochial schools. It also does not include high school grades.
What do you see in the chart that interests you? What do you think about the suspicion that charter schools "dump" or counsel out struggling students, often before testing season? The data here challenges these urban legends. Are you convinced that dumping isn't a problem in Harlem's district schools? Add your comments below.
SchoolBook requested the data from the city’s Department of Education to probe the longstanding perception among public school principals and teachers that charters are “dumping” low-performing and behaviorally challenged students into district schools. The D.O.E. provided records for about 8,000 transfers out of charters and into district schools during the three-year period. However, the D.O.E. would not tell us which schools the charter students transferred into, or which charters the kids at the recipient schools had come from, citing students’ privacy.
The data gave no indication of "dumping" groups of students into one district school from one charter school. No school took more than 42 students. Frederick Douglass Academy in School District Five took 42 kids over three years. I.S. 195 Roberto Clemente, also a District Five school, was second, admitting 32 charter school kids over the same three-year period.
Based on D.O.E. attrition rates for all the charters serving elementary and middle schools, SchoolBook found the charters have lower attrition rates on average than those of the district schools. Attrition for all schools, however, is higher in parts of Harlem.
Some principals and teachers have also expressed concerns that charters hold onto students long enough to claim state funds (based on October enrollment data), but then counsel them out if they appear likely to score low on the state exams in the spring.
A New York State Department of Education spokeswoman, Antonia Valentine, said charter schools do not keep all their funds based on October 31 enrollment numbers.
"The funding is an exchange between charter schools and the school district," she said. "Charter schools are paid when the child is present, also known as full-time equivalent (FTE). Charter schools report attendance bimonthly, so any changes are processed as quickly as possible. There is also an end of the year reconciliation of funding."
Valentine said district schools follow similar formulas.
SchoolBook found most students left charter schools over the summer and in September. Only a very small percentage leave between November and the March exams (around 20-25 percent). Also, in 2010-211 almost a third of all discharges from charter schools to district schools came from students in kindergarten and first grade - and students don't take state exams in those years.
Editor's Note: The original story stated no school took more than 40 students from charter schools. The corrected version is in the article, and below.
No school took more than 42 students. Frederick Douglass Academy in School District Five took 42 kids over three years. I.S. 195 Roberto Clemente, also a District Five school, was second, admitting 32 charter school kids over the same three-year period.
Also, we added the comment from the New York State Department of Education spokeswoman, Antonia Valentine, who said charter schools do not keep all their funds based on October 31 enrollment numbers.