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January 04, 2010

UFT Charter Study: A Correction

Today, the UFT issued a report comparing New York City Charter Schools to the public schools in their respective geographic districts. One of the most striking findings, used as the lead figure in the Daily News article on the report, was that in the South Bronx, 62% of charter school students are poor enough to qualify for free lunch, compared with 87% in the district public schools. It seems to us that the underlying data contains a significant bug.

According to Appendix A of the UFT’s report, the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts has no students that qualify for free or reduced price lunch (the first two columns after the enrollment data, highlighted in yellow below). These figures were gathered from the 2007-2008 New York State Accountability Reports, which did indeed show a 0% figure, despite the fact that the school had 100% and 85% of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunch during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years respectively.

Source: “Separate and Unequal: The Failure of New York City Charter Schools to Serve the City’s Neediest Students,” page 15. Available: http://www.uft.org/news/issues/uft_report-separate_and_unequal.pdf

Why this data is missing from the State Accountability report is anyone’s guess. The school itself, however, in its 2007-2008 Annual Report to the Department of Education, did include the required demographic data. The chart below shows that for the 2007-2008 school year, the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts had 71% of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch. (Note: the discrepancy between the enrollment data listed here versus that in the UFT’s report is probably due to the fact that the UFT used enrollment data from the 2008-2009 Progress reports for some of the charter schools, but used demographic data from the 2007-2008 State Accountability Reports.)

Source: “2007-2008 Annual Report,” page 17. Available: http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/72A59169-8CF9-45FF-8A8F-72F51DE43284/0/SBCSICA.pdf

Unfortunately, the data isn’t broken out into the number of students that qualified for free lunch versus reduced price lunch. Nonetheless, if the data for the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts is included in the first column (the calculation of students qualifying for free and reduced price lunch), approximately 83% of students in charter schools qualified for free or reduced price lunch compared to 92% of students in public schools. Clearly, the discrepancy still exists—it’s just not as large as the UFT would have the press believe.

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