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April 29, 2010

In and Out: Charter School Transfers

This is the second post in a series that looks at data from charter schools’ Basic Education Data System (BEDS) reports. This data was provided to us by the New York State Education Department via a Freedom of Information Law request. A full spreadsheet with the data we used is available here.

On Tuesday, the state teachers union released a report that said that charters in New York State had a student turnover rate of 8 to 10 percent each year. While statistics on overall turnover rates are hard to come by, data that city charter schools file with the state shows that one measure of transfer rate for city charter schools—that is, the number of students that transfer out of a charter school during the school year—is 6 percent. To be clear, this necessarily leaves out of the number of students who finished the school year but did not decide to return the following year.

Overall, this rate of transfers has decreased slightly from 7% in 2007-2008 to 6% in 2008-2009. Generally, the longer a school has been in existence, the lower its transfer rate. For instance, the NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Industries had the highest transfer rate—26%--in 2008-2009, but it has only been open for one year. Achievement First Endeavor and Ross Global Institute had the highest rates in 2007-2008, of 23% and 24% respectively. By 2008-2009, these numbers decreased to 15% at each school— numbers that are still higher than average. Some schools, such as Achievement First Crown Heights, Achievement First East New York, Community Partnership Charter School, KIPP Academy, and the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures and the Arts, reported no transfers during both the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years.

To look at the transfer rates at individual charter schools, you can scroll down the list below.

Although this data gives some insight into the number of students that choose to leave their charter school to go elsewhere each year, it’s not clear that it takes into account the full number of students who leave a charter. This is because the question on the BEDS survey asks charters to record the number of students who transferred out of the school between October and the end of the school year. Students who choose not to return are not counted in this number. Although this gap is somewhat made up by the stability number that charters must report, the stability number only records the statistics for one grade, so it’s hard to generalize school-wide.

In a future post, I will be looking at enrollment statistics to see if they can further illuminate the turnover rate at charters. As always, I welcome your feedback!

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