11/10/2010 The Illinois Policy Institute’s Fact Finder series specifically aims to debunk myths about public policy issues that affect Illinois. Download the full report here.
Myth: Charter schools have a higher-than-usual rate of students transferring out to other places of learning.
Fact: The percentage of students who transfer out of charter schools is roughly half that of the neighborhood public schools which charter students would likely otherwise attend.
Charter schools are a new kind of public school, attended solely by choice. They must take all comers, irrespective of past performance in school or on tests. Through state law, charter schools are given the freedom to create “new look” schools that break with the outworn, bureaucratic policies of inner city education. Several studies have shown that charter schools in Chicago are outperforming the norm at district-run public schools; there are more than 15,000 students on waiting lists as a result.
As schools of choice, one might expect that charter schools would lose students more frequently than district-run schools. It is extremely easy to leave a charter school for another public school; yet the strong academic track record of charter schools appears to help find a long-lasting scholastic home. A review of the data shows that the percentage of students who transfer out of charter schools is roughly half that of the neighborhood public schools charter students would likely otherwise attend.
The Office of New Schools at Chicago Public Schools publishes an exhaustive performance report of charter schools every year. For each charter school, the district examines students’ zip codes in order to identify which district-run school each student would likely attend. That data is then used to create a weighted average of vital performance statistics, to which charter schools’ statistics are then compared. The student transfer rate is one of the key statistics that the district reports. The data is compiled here and examined in further detail.
In 2008-09, the transfer rate of students at charter schools was lower than the comparison average at more than 90 percent of charter campuses in Chicago. On average, the transfer rate at charter schools was half that of comparison schools.
It is sometimes alleged that high performing schools usher problem students out the door, inflating their record of success. If this were true of charter schools, it would be reflected in a school’s transfer rate—and the data show that students are far less likely to leave charter schools than they are in district-run public schools.