Study: Fewer English learners in charters than district schools
New York City's charter schools enroll a significantly smaller proportion of English language learners (E.L.L.s) than the city's traditional public schools, though charters are slightly more likely to help those students become proficient in English, according to a new report to be released later today by the Manhattan Institute.
The report from the conservative think tank found that E.L.L. students are less likely to apply to charters than to traditional public schools, a gap that is significant at every grade level, and most apparent in kindergarten and first grade.
Marcus Winters, the senior Manhattan Institute fellow who wrote the report, published a related study last year that argued against the common criticism that New York's charter schools "counsel out" students with special needs.
As Winters acknowledges, there are abundant personal anecdotes from parents who have had their children asked to leave charters due to particular needs. Critics allege that charters notch particularly high test scores in part because the most difficult children to educate are asked to leave before the first state exams are administered in third grade.
Winters calls for further research to determine why fewer E.L.L. students apply to charters, but suggests that parents who don't speak English may not know that charters are available to their children, or worry that their children will be counseled out.
Still, the report finds that E.L.L. charter students are "just as likely, or even less likely" to leave their schools compared to E.L.L.s in district schools.
That picture varies somewhat in lower and upper grades: From kindergarten to third grade, fewer charter school students—both E.L.L. and proficient—left their schools. Eighty-two percent of E.L.L. kindergarten students in charters remained at their original school, compared to 70 percent of E.L.L. students in district schools, a difference that is not statistically significant, Winters said.
But for the middle school grades, E.L.L. students in charters are somewhat more likely to leave their charters than their counterparts in district schools: 75 percent of E.L.L. students enrolled in charters by sixth grade remained in their schools, compared to 81 percent of E.L.L. sixth graders in traditional public schools.
One explanation for the shift in upper grades is that intensive state exams begin in third grade and continue until eighth grade.
And Winters finds some evidence to indicate that charters do slightly better with the E.L.L. students they have than district schools do.
Among all students classified as E.L.L., charters declassified, or made proficient, 20.3 percent, while traditional district schools declassified 15.3 percent.
But Winters also found that the population of E.L.L. students enrolled in charters is generally closer to proficiency than the E.L.L. students enrolled in district schools.
"Students significantly lagging in English proficiency are especially unlikely to apply to attend a charter schools," Winters finds.
The full report will be released Monday afternoon.