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A few years back, the New York legislature tasked the Independent Budget Office to act as an independent monitor of New York City’s schools, both public and charter.
The IBO’s latest report shows the phenomenal growth of charter schools in the city since the election of Mayor Bloomberg. When his successor Bill de Blasio tried to curb their growth, Governor Andrew Cuomo responded with legislation that gave the charters free rent in the public schools and eliminated the Mayor’s ability to curb their growth.
The report has other interesting insights. The public schools enroll more than twice the proportion of English language learners than the charter schools. The public schools have many more students with severe disabilities. These are groups that most charters avoid. Kids like that drive down test scores.
The report shows that Success Academy charters have the highest test scores of any charter chain, by far. Success is known for attrition, high teacher turnover, and refusal to “backfill” (i.e., admit students to fill places after third grade or some other arbitrary year). However, Success Academy is an outlier.
An article by Eliza Shapiro at capitalnewyork.com says:
The findings are likely to boost Success’ reputation as one of the city and state’s highest-performing charter networks. However, the report notes that while Success is often portrayed as the face of the city’s charter sector, it is hardly reflective of the sector as a whole. Independent charters, for example, have lower standardized test results but often focus on high-needs populations, and other networks with similar “no-excuses” discipline styles to Success still record lower exam scores.
On average, charters are still producing mediocre standardized test scores, though they are performing better than many district schools.
The author of the report, Raymond Damonico, worked in the 1990s for the Center for Education Innovation at the conservative Manhattan Institute and also for the Public Education Association, both of which were advocates of charter schools.