2014 State of the Charter Sector Report

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A 'snapshot' of the charter sector in Buffalo in 2014, looking at enrollment, demographics, academic performance, and pressing issues.
    STATE OF THE CHARTER SECTOR: A SNAPSHOT OF CHARTER SCHOOLS IN BUFFALO, NEW YORK 2014 @BuffaloReformEd  1   State of the Charter Sector:  2014   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY What is a charter school? Who attends local charter schools? How does student performance in charter schools compare to performance of public schools at the local and state levels? The Western New York Charter Sector Report answers these questions, presenting a snapshot of student performance and demographic statistics in Western New York’s charter schools. As of 2013 , the last year with full enrollment data, there were 18 charter schools in Western New York serving nearly 9,000  students. One school (Pinnacle Charter School) is closed as of the 2013-14  school year while a new school, the Charter School of Inquiry, is set to open in 2015 . While local charter schools have experienced tremendous growth over the past 15  years, there has been a lack of comprehensive analysis on the performance of the charter sector as a whole. The Western New York Charter Sector Report fills this gap, providing the public with a deeper understanding of the options that charter schools provide and the role they play in our public education system. This report compiles and averages data on student performance and demographics at each WNY Charter School in order to provide aggregate information on the performance of the charter sector as a whole. In addition, this report draws comparisons among student performance in WNY Charter Schools, the Buffalo City School district, and New York State. The Buffalo City School district was chosen as a point of comparison as it educates a similar demographic as the local charter sector. This comparison helps control for the impact of students’ background on outcomes, and isolate differences in student achievement between traditional and charter schools. A comparison to NYS averages was included in order to gauge how local schools measure against statewide standards. The data presented in this report is derived from standardized English Language Arts, Math, and Science examinations at the elementary level, Regents examinations and graduation rates at the high school level, and demographic statistics at individual schools. Buffalo ReformEd recognizes that standardized test scores do not account for factors that contribute to overall school quality; however, test scores serve as a reliable means of determi ning a school’s impact on student performance. Above all, this report aims to serve as a useful resource and tool for parents, students, and community members as they seek to evaluate local educational options, and understand the impact of the charter sector on student achievement.    2   State of the Charter Sector:  2014   WHAT ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS? Charter schools are publicly funded, independently operated, tuition-free public schools created by parents, educators, and community leaders. Charter schools are open to all students; schools must enroll students through a blind, lottery based admissions process. The only legal admissions preference schools can offer is to applicants who have a sibling enrolled in the school. Charter schools are not under the direct control of a local board of education or Superintendent. Each school is independently operated by its own board of trustees. As independent entities, charters are allowed more freedom to innovate, develop their own curriculum, hire staff, and offer a longer school day and school year. In exchange for more freedom, charter schools are subject to more rigorous accountability. Charter schools operate under a five- year contract, or ‘charter.’ Every five years, a charter school must undergo a rigorous process of renewal to determine if the school is raising student achievement, and is financially and organizationally sound. If the school does not meet the criteria for renewal, it will lose its charter and close. This system helps ensure that high quality charter schools are supported, while low performing schools are phased out. Charter schools are subject to constant oversight by their authorizer. In New York State, there are three entities that can act as charter school authorizers: The SUNY Board of Trustees, the New York State Board of Regents, and local school boards. As public schools, charter schools are funded by public tax dollars that pass through the student's school district of residence. A portion of the per-pupil amount that a school district spends follows a student to the charter school. Because not all monies received by a school district are included in the calculation, charter schools receive only between 60-80% of what school districts actually spend on a per pupil basis. In addition, charter schools do not receive building aid or public funds for capital improvements or renovations. 1  For the 2014-15  school year, there are 248  charter schools operating in New York; another 11  new schools have been approved to begin operating in 2015 – 16  or later. 2    3   State of the Charter Sector:  2014   CHARTER SCHOOLS IN WESTERN NEW YORK There are 17   Charter Schools currently serving students in Western New York. One additional charter school, the Charter School of Inquiry, is set to open for 2015 , while one school, Pinnacle Charter School, has closed since our initial report. The long-term fate of Pinnacle is unclear, however, as there is some effort to reopen the school. Local charter schools are diverse in focus and program offerings; some adopt a progressive, child-centered education philosophy or a focus on science, technology or leadership, while others strive to serve unique populations such as English language learners. What is unique about WNY’s charter sector is that it is a locally grown, grassroots effort driven by parents, teachers, and community leaders seeking enhanced educational options for students. There is only one local charter school run by a national charter operator whereas in most large urban districts, charter operators and charter networks are common. The table below shows each WNY charter school and its enrollment in 2012-13 : School Grades Served Enrollment Aloma D. Johnson Community Charter School K –  4 295 Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School 7 –  12 404 Buffalo United Charter School K –  8 643 Charter School for Applied Technologies K –  12 1,670 Charter School of Inquiry* K - 3 n/a Community Charter School K –  6 321 Elmwood Village Charter School K –  6 298 Enterprise Charter School K –  8 404 Global Concepts Charter School K –  8 848 Health Sciences Charter School 9-10 325 King Center Charter School K - 6 260 Niagara Charter School K - 6 350 Oracle Charter School 9 - 12 334 Pinnacle Charter School** K –  8 550 South Buffalo Charter School K –  8 673 Tapestry Charter School K - 12 735 West Buffalo Charter School K-2 138 Westminster Charter K –  8 552 WNY Maritime Charter 9-12 292 Source: NYSED School Report Cards ( *School set to open for 2015-16  school year **School closed as of 2013-14  school year
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