17 posts categorized "Education"

April 14, 2010

Charter School Lottery Statistics

Mid-April marks the beginning of the charter school lottery season, and with it, news reports of staggering numbers of applications to schools with limited slots. Already, the Post reported that 3,800 students applied for 588 spots in the Achievement First charter schools. In order to review the results for past lotteries, I submitted a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the State Education department, who provided us with the Basic Education Data System (BEDS) data that all charters file with the state. I found that applications to charter schools have increased by 50% since 2007, with over 50,000 applications submitted last year. By comparison, enrollment in charters has only increased by 40% to just shy of 40,000 students last year. The chances of getting admitted to a charter school in New York City have declined from an average acceptance rate of 36% in 2008-2009 to a rate of 28% in 2009-2010. A full spreadsheet of the admissions data, with statistics for individual schools, is available here.

Applications To be clear, these numbers only tell part of the story. They do not, for instance, take into account double counting—i.e. the fact that many parents apply to multiple lotteries.  Nor do they offer detailed information about where these applicants live, so it is hard to say if charters get many applicants from far away districts or from close to the school. In fact, charter operators are instructed NOT to list the district numbers of their students on the BEDS form, despite the fact that the information could be easily collected. Despite the drawbacks, this data does offer insights into where applications are the most numerous—and how the number of applications correlates to things like age of the school and its Progress Report score. The 11 schools that had admissions percentages of less than 10% last year were*:

  1. Bronx Charter School for Better Learning
  2. Bronx Charter School for Children
  3. Bronx Charter School for Excellence
  4. Community Partnership Charter School
  5. Community Roots Charter School
  6. Future Leaders Institute Charter School
  7. Grand Concourse Academy Charter School
  8. Icahn Charter School 1
  9. Merrick Academy/Queens Public Charter School
  10. Renaissance Charter School
  11. The UFT Charter School
I found that schools that have been in operation longer generally have lower admissions percentages—and this is a trend that has increased in recent years. Schools such as the Sisulu-Walker Charter School, Renaissance Charter School, and Grand Concourse Academy, all of whom have been open since at least 2004, have had admissions percentages below 15% for the past three years. There appears to be no correlation between Progress Report scores and admission numbers in the following year. Indeed, out of the 19 new charter schools opened in 2009-2010 (for which no scores yet exist) 15 had admissions percentages of less than 50%.

Year opened

I also looked at admissions to charter schools based on neighborhood. I focused on Central Brooklyn, Harlem, and the South Bronx, as they are the areas that have the most charter schools. It has actually gotten easier to be admitted to a charter school in the South Bronx, where approximately 1 in 3 applicants is offered a spot. In Harlem, however, the chances of admittance have plummeted: in 2007-2008, the rate was 40%. Last year, it was 18%. Harlem

In future posts, I will be looking at the BEDS data related to suspensions, class size, and pupil retention. As always, I welcome comments and suggestions for ways to improve my calculations.

*I am leaving out the four Harlem Success Academy schools that were open in 2009-2010 because it is unclear whether the numbers refer to each individual school or all four schools. I will update when I have better information.

March 19, 2010

Charter School Spending Compared to DOE Spending

A longstanding selling point of the charter school movement has been budget independence—that is, schools are given the freedom to allocate resources as they see fit, relatively free from government control. We decided to explore how this freedom is affecting allocation decisions. We analyzed the spending breakdown, specifically as it relates to teacher salaries and classroom instruction expenditures, and found that, on average, charter schools devote 10% more of their budgets to teacher salaries and 14% more of their budgets to classroom instruction as compared to the DOE's budget for traditional schools. A full spreadsheet with individual school budgets, the total DOE budget, and our calculations is available here.

Teacher Salaries at DOE Teacher Salaries, Charters

Overall, the DOE devotes around 41% of its budget to paying teachers, paraprofessionals, and other classroom aids. Charter schools in public space devote around 51% of their budgets to program salaries, which are salaries associated with classroom instruction. Classroom instruction, which includes funds spent on teacher salaries, classroom materials, student afterschool programs, and professional development, makes up 49% of the DOE’s total budget and 63% of publicly-housed charter school budgets. Charts comparing these budgets are below. 
Classroom Instruction, DOE Classroom Instruction,Charters


In order to compare the DOE’s budget to charter school budgets, we used two different methodologies which gave largely the same result. In our first method, we looked at how much the DOE spent per pupil on each of its budget items, as reported on this page. We then compared those amounts to how much charter schools spent per pupil on things like program salaries and classroom equipment. To figure out the percentage of charter school budgets that went to these expenses, we used our calculated per pupil expense (discussed in this blog post) and added to that amount the $3,929 that the IBO estimates charter schools get in in-kind services from the DOE. However, because there have been many criticisms of the IBO report, we decided to compare the budgets a different way: by subtracting the cost of things that charters get in kind, like transportation and food services, from the DOE budget. The results were largely the same: although the percentage of the total budget that was devoted to teacher salaries and classroom instruction changed, the difference between the DOE’s numbers and charter schools stayed constant.

Other Notes:

  1. I left out KIPP Academy because their Statement of Activities included many non-school related expenses, like the KIPP to College costs, which were difficult to parse.
  2. In some cases, items that the IBO listed as charters receiving were not listed on the DOE’s page (like Software and Health expenses). Since these were relatively small additions to charter budgets, I left them out.
  3. Although the DOE budge was for 2007-2008 and the charter budgets were from 2008-2009, I think the comparison is fair, as the percentage breakdown of DOE spending does not seem to change much from year to year.
  4. I think it is important to separate charters that are housed in public space from those who must pay occupancy costs – for that reason, I believe the public charter to DOE comparison is most accurate, but I included the other numbers in the spreadsheet for comparison’s sake. As always, we welcome feedback and ways to improve our calculations!
As always, we welcome feedback and ways to improve our calculations!

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.

December 23, 2009

Charter School Philanthropy 2009

In an earlier post, Ken reviewed some philanthropy statistics for New York City charter schools. The data was culled from the 2007-2008 audited financial statements that charter schools are required to submit to their authorizer—the SED, SUNY, or the DOE—usually sometime in October. This post reviews the updated statistics based on 2008-2009 audits. A database of the audits as well as a file containing all of the "Statement of Activities" pages is available here. You can see our calculations in this workbook.

The total amount of philanthropic contributions for the 77 schools was $31,302,550. The total enrollment was 23,715. (Enrollment information was taken from the 2008-2009 Learning Environment Survey data, which seems to have the most comprehensive information.) This comes out to a per pupil calculation of $1,320—a 9% drop from the 2007-2008 audits, which had a per pupil contribution of $1,443. The statistics on the school level were basically unchanged from last year. The average school philanthropy per pupil was $1,651 in 2007-2008 compared to $1,654 and the median school philanthropy per pupil was $1,092 compared to $1,081.

Many more schools had per-pupil decreases in philanthropy than increases. 53%, or 31 schools, lost money per pupil in 2008-2009. 21%, or 12 schools, gained money per pupil. 15 schools did not have significant changes in per-pupil philanthropy. (We used $100 per pupil as a cutoff for “significant”.)

In order to get a more complete picture, we decided to look at schools that did not have Charter Management Organizations (CMOs), since the amount of philanthropy that a given school benefits from could be understated depending on the philanthropic donations that were given to the larger CMO. We will have a post on CMO philanthropy in the future.

There were 44 schools in 2008-2009 that did not have a CMO (these schools were either Community Grown Organizations (CGOs) or had for-profit Educational Management Organizations (EMOs)). The total amount of philanthropic contributions for these schools was $13,188,546 and the total enrollment was 13,267. This comes out to a per pupil calculation of $994—almost exactly the same for the 33 non-CMO schools in 2007-2008, which had a per pupil contribution of $1000. The percentage of schools that lost money, gained money, or stayed the same per pupil was the same as the data with the CMO charters included. For schools that had a CMO, their per pupil philanthropy came out to $1,734, which is $740 more than charter schools without CMOs.*

To be clear, these calculations do not take into account the value of the space that is sometimes granted by the DOE but they do include in-kind donations and restricted funds. Like we did last year, we included the money collected during fundraising events but did not subtract out fundraising expenses.

Here are some additional notes:

1. We subtracted out KIPP to College costs because these amounts are not used for current students. This is their alumni program.

2. We averaged across KIPP and Achievement First schools for per pupil philanthropy. These schools route disproportionate amounts of their philanthropy through one school.

3. We removed The New York Center for Autism. 

As always, we encourage charter school operators and other readers to help us to further improve these calculations.

*This paragraph has been updated since this post was first published. It more closely reflects the number of charter schools with CMOs. (Some organizations were counted as CMOs that, upon closer consideration, did not provide the same services a traditionally-defined CMO would.)

December 01, 2009

Form 990s: Compensation at Charter Schools

In a previous entry, we posted a database of all of the available tax-filings—known as Form 990s—for New York City charter schools. Since the filings are often lengthy and complicated, we have attempted to parse some of the information. In this analysis, we examined the compensation data available in the 990s to better understand compensation as compared to traditional public schools. To see the results of our survey, you can download our spreadsheet here.

Some key findings:

• The average salary of the top earner at a charter school or CMO is $169,772. The median is $145,000. If you factor in other costs, like pensions and expense accounts, the average is $186,828 and the median is $158,928. For reference, the average superintendent salary (including regional and community superintendents) is $177,785, according to data provided by SeeThroughNY.

• The highest salary for a charter school leader or CMO executive is $494,269 ($515,258 with pension and expense accounts). The lowest salary is $86,057 (there were no listed pension or expense accounts for this person). 

• The amount of executive compensation varied significantly from school to school, with some charter schools paying their top 5 earners over $90,000 and others with only one person listed above $80,000.

• The average salary for a charter school principal is $120,454. The median is $124,000. The average salary for a DOE principal is $133,680 and the median is $133,490, according to data provided by SeeThroughNY. (Note: We did not include pension data because this was only available for charter school principals and not available for traditional DOE principals.)

Our methods:

Non-profit charter schools are required to list the top five earners at their school as well as the number of employees that make over $50,000 in their 990 filing. However, charter schools are sometimes controlled by larger Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) that are responsible for the management and backroom support of several charter schools in New York City and elsewhere. (Uncommon Schools, Inc. and Achievement First, Inc. are two examples of such CMOs). These CMOs are often the source of the compensation data for the executive directors of schools and networks of schools. Additionally, charter schools often set up related charitable organizations, usually known as “Friends of X School,” through which employees at the school are compensated in addition to the salary listed on the school’s 990 filing. Thus, in order to get as comprehensive a sense as possible of total compensation both within an individual school as well as its larger CMO, we looked at the “Related Organizations” line on the 990 and then found the tax filing for the organizations listed. (A full database of these filings is available here.) This data, combined with our original 990 database, is what we used to determine the top earner at each charter school as well as the top earner in each charter school network. (If a charter school was not run by a separate CMO, we simply used the data listed on the 990 for the school itself.)

We have listed the school’s name, the salary of the top earner as well as the salary including pension and expense accounts, the title of the top earner, and whether or not this top earner was an employee of a related organization. We have chosen not to include names, although all of this information is available on the 990 filings. In addition to this data, we also looked at the top five earners in each specific charter school to get a sense of how pay was distributed across the individual schools. Included in this analysis are the job titles of the top earners, listed in order from highest paid to lowest. Finally, we compared principal compensation at charter schools versus traditional public schools (these are the last two pages of the spreadsheet). Inconsistencies, either in reporting from a particular school or in our methodology, are noted in the spreadsheet.

As always, if you have any questions about our approach or any helpful criticism, post it in the comments section below.

Charter School Form 990 Filings: 2007 - 2008

In March, Ken wrote a post that discussed the information available on the “IRS Form 990”—the required federal filing for tax-exempt organizations, which includes charter schools. The Form 990s contain data about fundraising, spending, and leadership compensation.

This post provides updated data for the 2007-2008 school year. Reports for 2008-2009 are unavailable because the forms are filed several months after the reporting period. Additionally, many charter schools opt to file for an extension. Thus, the forms are usually submitted in April of the following year.

Since Form 990 filings can be difficult to find, we have compiled a database of the forms for 64 out of the 80 charter schools that were open in 2008. Of the 16 schools without forms, fourteen are schools that opened in the fall of 2008 (and thus didn’t have a 2007-2008 report). Two schools that were open during the 2007-2008 year, East New York Preparatory Charter School and Harlem Village Academy Charter School, had forms that were unavailable as of this writing.

You can view a spreadsheet of the schools, their grades, the years in which they opened, and whether or not they filed a Form 990 here. The full database of all of the Form990s is located here.

In a following post, we will examine in further detail some of the interesting information available in these reports, including leadership compensation.

January 02, 2009

Test Your Knowledge: No Child Left Behind

Since you have had the entire holiday period to study the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001", here is a little quiz.  For your convenience, this page contains a link to a pdf of the complete law along with an index.

1. About how many pages are in the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001"?

a. 7
b. 70
c. 700
d. 7000

(c).  670 to be exact.  Do you think the next version will be shorter or longer?

2. Which of the following is NOT part of NCLB?

a. Teaching of Traditional American History
b. Teacher Liability Protection
c. William F. Goodling Even Start Family Literacy Programs
d. Kenneth M. Hirsh  3 R's For a K Challenge Grant

(d).  NCLB claims to focus on accountability, flexibility, and choice, but it also has room for hundreds of pages about things like this, this, and this

3. Which type of teacher is NOT formally defined in the text of NCLB?

a. Highly Qualified Teacher
b. Master Teacher
c. Exemplary Teacher
d. Crappy Teacher


(d).  Don't be confused.  If you review this section, you will learn that "the term exemplary teacher means a teacher who ... is a highly qualified teacher such as a master teacher ...".  Understood?

4. Which of the following is NOT part of NCLB?

a. Excellence in Economic Education
b. Grants to Improve the Mental Health of Children
c. Educational, Cultural, Apprenticeship, and Exchange Programs for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Whaling and Trading Partners in Massachusetts

d. Grants to Introduce Public Choice Theory to Infants


(d).  Sections like this, this, and this make me more comfortable that our children will be economically literate, mentally sound, and on good terms with their historical whaling and trading partners in Massachusetts.

November 24, 2008

Curious2 Supports Plan B

In a previous post, I bemoaned some of the steps that Michelle Rhee, my favorite chancellor, is taking in an effort to reform the Washington, D.C. public schools.  She is offering to pay salaries much higher than should be necessary to lure teachers away from an inflexible union contract that makes it impossible to remove ineffective instructors.  The union, chock full of ineffective teachers, is resisting.  This story discusses Plan B: restore the districts right to create nonunionized charter schools and seek federal legislation declaring the system to be in a "state of emergency" (for excessive crappiness) which would eliminate the need to bargain with the union.  Our hero will not be defeated!  I repeat my conclusion from the previous post: "I believe that Michelle Rhee will dramatically improve the traditional public schools, but unless she can convince teachers to start from scratch, her system will be less effective and much more expensive than the simple workings of the charter system."   


November 23, 2008

Performance Pay: On The Road To Another Fine Mess

How do you combine Education Reform with Big Government?  First, you find a situation in which inflexible rules are hurting performance.  Second, instead of simply eliminating the inflexible rules, you create additional rules (the more complex, the better) that attempt to cure the problems.  Repeat.  Throughout this process you will be victimized by special interest groups that bastardize the "reforms" while insisting on more money as a reward for their "compromises".  The end result will be a more expensive and more complicated system that continues to underperform a simple, less-regulated approach. 

For years, education reformers have complained that teachers generally have no incentive to "perform".  Thanks to productivity-destroying union contracts, they can't be fired and their pay only increases based on seniority.  One solution would be to allow parents to send their kids to schools that aren't subject to these contracts, e.g. charter schools.  Another solution would be to reform the contracts such that teachers can be fired for poor performance and school operators can pay teachers whatever they feel is appropriate, perhaps subject to a minimum wage set through collective bargaining. 

The Big Government solution, which we are experimenting with in NYC and might soon see nationally, is to create a new set of rules with the following properties:

1. All of the inflexible rules in the union contracts are still in effect. 
2. All of the teachers in a school get paid additional money if their students collectively do well on high-stakes tests.
3. Some teachers in the school can get paid even more money based on decisions made by a panel of teachers in the school.   

In other words, teachers are no more accountable than they were before, but they can get even more money if they can get their kids to do well on already-controversial high-stakes tests.  The only certain thing with respect to this new plan: we will spend more money on traditional public education.  Surprised?

Interestingly, in the charter world, where operators are free to pay teachers as they see fit, "performance pay" is not the norm.  Many operators find that differentiating pay based on performance creates more morale problems than it is worth.  Instead, they fire teachers that aren't getting the job done.

November 19, 2008

Cars and Schools: Same Situation, Different Timing

The Big 3 car companies and traditional public schools are suffering from the same problem: they are burdened with productivity-destroying union contracts while they struggle to compete against non-unionized alternatives.  The Big 3 struggle, of course, is in a much more advanced stage.  Since they were unsuccessful in stopping free trade and the establishment of foreign competitors on US soil, consumers have had choices for decades.  As a result, their market share has decreased year after year.  The union-dominated traditional public schools have been more successful in preventing competition.  The charter school movement, though, is changing that dynamic.  The basic results should be the same: unless the unions allow for much more flexible labor agreements or force the government to prevent charter school growth, they will lose market share each year until they face extinction.  Think "charter schools" instead of "foreign auto makers" in this excellent article and see if any of the dynamics sound familiar.