A ‘miracle school’ is one that purports to get extraordinary results with the ‘same kids’ as the nearby ‘failing’ school. Sometimes the miracle is high test scores, sometimes it is a high graduation rate, sometimes it is a high college acceptance rate. In general the school usually gets one or two of those things at the expense of the others. Over the past two years I’ve investigated over 100 miracle schools and have yet to find one that is the ‘real deal.’
In today’s New York Daily News there was an article called South Bronx prep school has a 95% graduation rate . The second sentence says “Of the 66 12th graders at Hyde Leadership Charter School, 62 graduated — a 95% rate that crushes the citywide average of 64.7%.”
Sounds pretty miraculous, right? Right away I knew that these numbers were not a fair comparison. The 64.7% is what’s known as the ‘cohort’ graduation rate, meaning the percent of students from a class who eventually graduated. The 95% ‘graduation rate’ for this school is just based on the percent of the 66 students WHO ALREADY MADE IT TO 12th GRADE who also completed that final year. So these are two very different things.
Even the high school I taught at in Houston, which had about a 40% cohort graduation rate probably had at least an 85% ‘graduation rate’ in this other sense since the time that students drop out is generally after repeating 9th grade for a few years. Students who make it through 11th grade generally complete 12th grade too.
So the big question, then for this school, Hyde Leadership Academy, is what is their ‘cohort’ graduation rate. How many students entered the school six years earlier from which the 62 graduates came from? Fortunately this is very easy to find. On the DOE’s website each school has a page and there is a link for statistics. From there I just had to download the Accountability and Overview Report (AOR) for 2008-2009, the earliest available. This report has the enrollment statistics for that year and the previous two, conveniently. What I learned is that the 62 graduates in 2013 were once 103 sixth graders in 2006-2007.
62 students out of 103 is a 60.2% ‘cohort’ graduation rate, which not only does not ‘crush’ the citywide average, but actually falls a little short of it. (Notice that they also lost 28% of their kindergarteners after 3 years) The Daily News can really use a fact checker.