A regular reader in New York City is a data hound. He gets annoyed when he sees the media repeating things that are factually wrong. Recently he noticed the repetition of inflated claims of charter success. Here, he goes to the sources to set the record straight.

A recent series of articles in the New York Times’ SchoolBook site examined charter schools in New York City. While the series was more honest than most reporting on charter schools, charter school advocates were still able to get away with untruths and the media reported them as the truth.

Throughout the series charter advocates claimed to be preparing students for college. Does their rhetoric match their results? The data suggests not. The average SAT score for charter high school graduates in New York City was 430 in reading and 438 in math versus the national average of 497 in reading ad 514 in math. Less than a quarter of their graduates earned a passing score on the state exams in Trigonometry or Physics or Chemistry, and only 8.4% of their graduates earned a score of 3 or above on an AP exam. This would not strike anybody as a result that can be truthfully called “students prepared for college.”

In another story in the series Democracy Prep, a charter organization, acknowledged that their policy of holding many students back “drove some families away.” If only they copped to this fact when Mayor of New York City praised them for taking over and turning around a failing charter school. The truth is that they accomplished this by threatening to hold back about 100 of the 247 students in the school according to the Wall Street Journal and, as a result, only 70% of the students returned. The test scores then went up 30%, but they got rid of 30% of their struggling students. Not a great model for improving a school. Brings back memories of the Vietnam-era idea that it made sense to destroy villages in order to save them.

One KIPP school was said to have “a greater share of students with special needs than the citywide average.” The citywide average of students with special needs in middle schools is 18.8%. In the KIPP school, 18.6% of their students have special needs. In what should come as no surprise, the school has only 2.5% of students with the highest level of special needs as opposed to 9.1% in the average New York City middle school. So the truth is that the KIPP school actually has fewer students with special needs and a lot, lot fewer students with the highest special needs than the average city middle school. The KIPP school also accepts many, many fewer students with incoming math scores in the lowest third than the city middle school average (14.3% at KIPP vs. the 38.3% public middle school average). Believe it or not, this KIPP school is accepting more disadvantaged students than the other KIPP schools in New York City, so you can imagine what the average student profile at the other KIPP schools is like. It would appear despite the charter school claim to make “no excuses” they have plenty of excuses for not educating the same students as their public school colleagues.