One of the dirtiest tricks played by charter schools is when they claim to have a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate. The first use of this, to my knowledge, was when YES Prep used it to help secure $1 million from Oprah. Over the years, it is very common to see some charter school tout a similar statistic.
When I hear about one of these 100% schools, the first thing I ask is “Is this 100% of the starting cohort, or just the senior class?” It is always just the senior class. Then I ask “How many students are in the senior class?” When the number of graduating seniors is in the 30s, 20s, or even most recently in the case of Success Academy, 16, I ask “How big was the initial cohort?”
In The New York Post the other day, there was an article titled “Bronx charter school sending 96 percent of grads to college.” The school was the one KIPP high school in New York City. According to the article, there were 225 graduating seniors, which, at least, is much bigger than the graduating class of many of these 100% (or 96% in this case) stories.
But 96% of the graduating seniors is not 96% of the original cohort and The Post addresses this by saying “The network said 86 percent of the original freshman class stayed on through their senior year.”
The problem with this statistic is that KIPP is a 5th to 12th grade program, not a 9th to 12th grade program. So I went to the New York State Education Data Portal and here’s what I learned:
In the 2010 to 2011 school year there were 404 5th graders.
In the 2011 to 2012 school year there were 394 6th graders.
In the 2012 to 2013 school year there were 381 7th graders.
In the 2013 to 2014 school year there were 354 8th graders.
In the 2014 to 2015 school year there were 289 9th graders.
In the 2015 to 2016 school year there were 268 10th graders.
In the 2016 to 2017 school year there were 224 11th graders.
In the 2017 to 2018 school year there were 228 12th graders.
So while the percent of 9th graders that eventually graduated was 78% (Not the 86% claimed in the article), the percent of 5th graders that eventually graduated was just 56%.