Transparency Required: Are Charter Schools Dumping Struggling Kids into Public Schools?

At the February Regents meeting Chancellor Tisch asked whether State Ed could provide the number of kids per charter school who had left and returned to public schools. Ken Wagner, the deputy for data replied they did not track that data but it could be done, and, the chancellor asked that the info be provided.

Anecdotally we hear story after story of charter schools dumping out kids who are not prospering academically or who are discipline problems back into public schools.

At the March Regents meeting Regent Dawson asked the same question, he was told by schools in his region that charter schools, right before the state tests, were sending kids back to public schools. Sally Bachofer, the head of the charter school office hesitated and looked to Commissioner King, who hesitated and asked Ken Wagner – who said he could have the info by next fall.

Next fall?

Each kid, public and charter, has a unique ID number – the State has the ability to track all students. It shouldn’t take six months – it should take six days!!!

We should know the number of kids, each month, who are admitted and discharged from charter schools and where they transfer to – another charter school or a public school. Additionally, what would have been the impact on State scores if the kid remained in the charter school?

The State currently collects voluminous data about charter school (see Charter School Update here). Charter schools do have enrollment targets relating to registering similar percentages of special education and English Language Learners as other schools in the district. Failure to achieve the targets can result in charters not being extended.

The Harlem Success Academies are an Education Management Organization (EMO) with 14 schools and more in the pipeline, and, with a long list of deep pocket supporters (Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, etc.) How many kids do the Harlem Success Academy schools send back to the public school? A rather simple query.

The original theory was that charter schools, free of district regulations, would become “engines of innovation,” and share their successes with public schools. Today the theory seems to be that charter schools will provide competition for public schools – to force public schools to improve or else – or be replaced with a charter school. One category of charter schools, the schools that are part of EMOs actively seek foundation and corporate support – and the support is not public information. Teachers are paid about the same as public schools – except – there is a steady teacher turnover. In fact, the model is based upon teachers not moving up a pay scale, teachers staying for a few years and leaving. Some charter schools employ retired public school teachers.

Many charter schools are single schools – generally referred to as “Mom and Pop” charter schools – they struggle, they have a limited ability to fund raise.

The core question: Are charter schools doing better than public schools?

Schoolbook peruses the arguments and Schoolbook and WNYC reporter Beth Fertig concludes,

While Mr. Bloomberg continues to say that his stewardship of the schools has led to improvements in student achievement, the latest results of state proficiency tests are further indication that the change he has been hoping for has largely been incremental, rather than transformational.

Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of Harlem Success Academies, who earns twice the salary of the NYC chancellor, clearly had an inappropriately cozy relationship with former Chancellor Joel Klein, a relationship that will not continue with the next administration. All the democratic wannabes have a problem with co-locating charter school in public school buildings.

With discretionary federal dollars drying up, the 700 million in Race to the Top ending and PARCC, the “testing machine” scrambling to find private sector dollars maybe, just maybe, decision-making may be returning to state and localities.

If it turns out, as we all suspect, that charter schools are dumping low achieving/discipline problem kids to the public schools – will the State take any action? I fear the State is too invested with charter schools.

Hopefully the next mayor will return focus to public schools, sharply discourage co-locations and eliminate Charter Schools from dumping kids – an even playing field.

Some advice from a founding father:

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Stevens Smith, November 13, 1787

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty . . . And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

9 responses to “Transparency Required: Are Charter Schools Dumping Struggling Kids into Public Schools?


    of course they are..Talented and Gifted schools have done it, specialized HS have done it and Charter Schools di it as well, heck even Parochial schools do it. No surprises here!


  2. Bloomberg has saddled the city with billions of dollars spent on the
    Department of Education, giving 90 day wonders principalships paying outrageous salaries ($140,000 and up) and the results are no different from pre-Bloomberg,especially in the poorer areas of the city.



      bloomberg has done more to denigrate our profession than anyone in history going back to when the GReeks forced Socrates to take poison..


  3. YJosh Gutterman

    I hope the State Ed dept reads this n begins a full investigation?


  4. Carole Silverstein.

    Peter this is not new. You have heard these stories since we both started teaching. Now,maybe the statistics will support it.


  5. Peter:

    We all know the Charter schools are dumping these children back into the public schools and that is no surprise to me. I have posted similar stories on my blog.

    You should have also mentioned how the Bloomberg small schools do the same thing as they claim lack of resources for the self-contained special education student and English Language Learners.


  6. Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing in the same way and expecting change as a result! Unfortunately this unprofessional and self serving practice has been going on forever between private and parochial schools forever. Not only that but it exposes for anyone who wants to see the true hypocrisy and self serving nature of these schools. Let’s try a controlled experiment. Let’s give the public schools the same option, track the students, and compare the results. Then we’ll have the raw data to truly compare.


  7. Eric Nadelstern

    I suspect they are, as do many public schools. The real question is what would it take to get schools to fight to recruit the hardest to educate youngsters? How would we need to adjust funding for such students, as well as school, principal and teacher accountability metrics?


  8. Pingback: Who Will Teach the Poor, the Kids Living in Shelters, in Foster Care …? How Can We Incentivize School Leaders and Teachers to Teach in the Most Challenging Schools? | Ed In The Apple

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