Jun 28 2013

Debunking the latest NY Daily News ‘Miracle School’

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.

17 Responses

  1. Educator

    This needs to go to the Daily News and every education reporter in the nation. Clear, simple explanation and you teach us how to investigate ourselves!

    Now, in fairness to the statistics, it’s difficult to know if students transferred INTO a school at later grades. At traditional schools, I know it happens as students move into the neighborhood (or get kicked out / counseled out) of their charter to return to the traditional. I don’t think Charters usually take students in at later grades.

    • Educator

      teach us how to investigate FOR ourselves, that is =)

    • Moody Towers

      That is correct, charters do NOT take students in later grades, nor are they forced to. When a student wants to enroll- either transfer from another school or moving to NYC from another state/city- the enrollment centers do not send families to charters. In addition, charters are not obligated to enroll students OTC (over the counter) during the school year. Public schools often enroll students over the counter…the ones who’ve been counseled/kicked out of…charters.

  2. Moody Towers

    Charters in NYC do NOT sign students up in later grades, nor are they forced to. When a student needs to transfer into a school, or moves to NYC and needs to register for the first time, their families go to placement offices. Those offices do not send families to charters. And charters are allowed to reject anyone trying to register OTC (Over The Counter).

  3. Steve M

    I’m surprised that no one has come out with an easily-researched, easily-analyzed study on the statistics of these “miracle schools”. You, yourself are batting 100% on your (albeit, quick) takedowns of the things.

    Seems like a no-brainer MA thesis for someone out there. Hello! Calling all young TFAers!

    One comment though: The 103 students were from the 6th grade, not the ninth. This suggests that their 79 eighth graders in 08-09 became the 62 graduates…which would, indeed, be promising if each and every one of those 62 graduates was from the group of 79 (which we all know they were not).

    • Educator

      Good point. So 62 / 79 = 78% from 9th to 12th. That does seem promising.

      But…at the same time. They were able to lose a bunch in the middle school grades, so those entering 9th would seem to have been filtered out already. A traditional school system can’t do that.

    • Moody Towers

      I think that what it means is they dropped 24 students between 6th and 9th grades, and then dropped another 17 between 9th and 12th. A luxury that the “traditional” public schools don’t have.

  4. Janise Robinson

    Please look into http://www.grandriverprep.com/. They are opening a charter school in my area and saying what a miracle this school is to our parents. They report to have all 84 kids in the last class were accepted into college and they got 3.5 million in scholarships and grants.

    • Educator

      Try finding a parent with a child with a learning disability or with major behavioral challenges and ask them to inquire about enrolling their child in this school. If they’re a legit school, they’ll be open and welcome him/her in no questions asked. If they’re not legit, they’ll ask a TON of questions and communicate in a passive aggressive manner that “we’re not a match for what it sounds like you’re looking for” and other such tactics to discourage the parent.

  5. JMoney

    It’s one thing when a major newspaper publishes flawed statistics for a splashy article in a tabloid destined for the rubbish before the end of our commute, but when the NYC DOE does it as part of their job to provide meaningful information in the service of accountability, it rises to a different level entirely.

    I happen to live in the neighborhood where the school discussed is, and at first thought that the very notion of relating any school here with the citywide average was a little flawed. In addition to the issues the good Mr. Rubinstein raises, my memory has the number for the male cohort graduation rate from middle school kids in this area closer to 30%…so 60.2%, never mind the News, WOW!

    I followed the links to the city’s progress reports, and state report cards for the school AND also the public school with which it is co-located, the Hunts Point School. I found it intriguing that neither school considers the other to be in its ‘peer group’ for the NYC DOE’s purposes of evaluating school performance by the ‘peer index’. (They both draw from and serve exactly the same population…I tutored a neighbor in math, statistics if you can believe, who graduated from South Hyde Leadership) What is far more troubling to me, however is that not only does the city not consider the schools to be peers of one another, the reports have entirely different definitions and methodologies for determining what the ‘peer index’ is (for example, one peer index is on a scale of 1 to 100, the other 1 to 4.5; page 6 of both reports). The peer index is a significant component of the schools’ performance for the city’s annual progress report! Am I missing something, or do statistics exist for the sake of comparison…is all this number crunching just a bunch of horseshit?

    The neighborhood anecdotal scuttlebutt is that Hyde is a far, far better school than the Hunts Point School despite being in the same building and having horrendous turnover of teachers with minimal experience. However much the lottery may be working her, the test scores in state and city evaluations of student performance seem to bear that out. Yet the city’s progress report gives Hyde Leadership a big fat red ‘D” and the Hunts Point school a similarly big green ‘C’ on the first page of their reports…REALLY? They could at least use a lesson from Tufte. All this effort on dense, impenetrable and seemingly arbitrary numbers that are no more enlightening than the very well informed and inebriated fellow at the corner bodega. That they are used for the purposes of determining policy rather than entertainment on a morning commute is thoroughly frightening.

    No wonder the Daily News went with what they had. Given the level of outright nonsense that the NYC DOE spits out as data, at least the News got the basic idea right. Hyde Leadership is where I’d want to teach if I was an educator, or send my kid if I had one, no matter how flawed the misplaced enthusiasm, how disappointing I found the caliber of math instruction at Hyde Leadership, or how ardent my skepticism for the charter project is. Only if I was interested in a crappy school that was improving relative to last year instead of a good school that was deteriorating would the city’s presentation be helpful. I am almost sure that the number of my neighbors with school age children who would find the city’s presentations (for the ostensible purpose of creating accountability) decipherable is more limited than the number of middle school boys who start middle school here and then graduate.

    Do we really have to do this all ourselves?

  6. Gail

    I’ve had principals in district public schools try to blow the kind of graduation stat by me. In even the worse schools, of course, most kids who make it to 12 th grade do graduate. It’s in 9th and 10th that many fall. But one question, wouldn’t the most accurate number for Hyde Park be the students who entered 9th grade in 2009? I think that’s what the state uses

  7. david cantor

    Calculating a school’s graduation rate based on its 7th-grade cohort and then comparing that to NYC’s four-year rate is not cool. If you’re going to blow up false claims and bogus use of data–which is laudable–you need to be impeccable.

  8. jeff cowen

    I work in a Charter/transfer school in NYC and I can tell you the whole cohort issue is B.S. What it does is penalize charter schools for the failure of other schools. If 102 students all start the same year, and eventualy x number attend a charter school, why should the numbers of those who did not attend a charter school be germain? Charter high schools out perform traditional schools on every count. Perhpas if the writer spent less time trying to debunk schools and more focusing on making the school he teaches at better, his school could match mine in graduation rates, college acceptance rates and regents numbers. All of which at oiur school are above the national average.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      It isn’t that 102 students start the same year and eventually x number attend a charter school. It is that 102 start at the charter school and then 6 years later there are just 60 left.

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
Houston
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