Fewer Students Transfer Out of Oakland’s Charter Schools Mid-Year, Than From District Schools

There is and inconvenient truth in the Oakland public school wars, students at charter public schools are less likely to transfer mid-year than those at district schools.  I know that if you just listened to the so called debate, you would not know that. But that is what the California Department of Education’s data says.  And if we are to address the very real problems in Oakland education we need to start with real facts.

OUSD Board meetings had several anecdotes from speakers and even board members about charter schools discharging students mid-year en masse.  But when I researched that (as best I could) it is fake news.  And with all the problems Oakland has, I would hope we could at least do our homework before we start to make policy decisions on the basis of rumor.

 “Continuous enrollment” data for Oakland’s public school sectors

The Ed Code defines “continuous enrollment” as “student enrollment from Fall Census Day (first Wednesday in October) to the first day of testing without a gap in enrollment of more than 30 consecutive calendar days.”  So basically you are at the school from the Fall until the testing in Spring.

The continuous enrollment rates for public schools located within Oakland are…drumroll please…

Year Charter continuous enrollment Non charter continuous enrollment
2016 94.8% 87.4%
2015 94.6% 84.1%

Those are the facts pulled from CDE, well someone else asked the academic accountability unit, since it wasn’t posted publicly.

If someone has a better data set I would love to see it and be happy to include it.  I also know that this does not answer every question, and as I have argued we need a better research base that actually follows the academic careers of individual students in a more nuanced way.  We don’t know whether these are higher needs students, or why they left.

I also believe that some of the anecdotes are true, for charters and for district schools.  I have written about my own challenges with charter enrollment before and have had my share of crazy questions from school leaders who wanted to get rid of kids.

I have also gotten those former district kids at my charter schools who, “needed a smaller environment.”  These students tend to come with big thick student files, and equally thick academic deficits.  There was a recent article where San Diego Unified admitted to pushing high needs students into charters.  And I have supported district kids in fighting unfair disciplinary proceedings.  This flow goes both ways, and without better data it’s hard to say exactly what the trends are.

But that hasn’t stopped some from spouting off, even though the data contradicts their statements.

The accountability we need

We do need more accountability in school admissions and assuring families are treated fairly.  I have long argued for greater statistical tracking of students, follow ups when families leave schools asking quickly why, and the use of testers to make sure that charters are open admission.

Similarly I have argued for the breaking down of traditional neighborhood boundaries, and district boundaries within the traditional public schools, as well as reduction or elimination of entry tests.

And we need to think hard about how we create level playing fields at schools for all families.  Where sometimes the few Black and Brown families at the Hills schools, are forced to assimilate, check their identity at the door, and experience a first class school like a second class citizen.

I don’t have all the answers.  But in district seemingly on the brink of a state takeover, with immense achievement gaps, a disproportionate number of school facilities, an existential threat to a huge segment of our families from Washington, and 20 other assorted threats, I would just hope that we can at least start with the facts and move from there.  We have real problems to worry about, wasting time on fake ones, does just that, wastes time.

I personally have had enough alternative facts.

I would hope that the OUSD board and the public have too.


What do you think?

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