Charter School Critics Blast Graduation Claims
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
An anti-charter school group is questioning the attrition rates at the Connecticut high school run by Achievement First, the nonprofit charter management organization that hopes to open schools in Providence beginning in 2013.
WeCanRI, which is led by Providence City Councilman Bryan Principe, is disputing the organization’s claim that 100 percent of its graduates are accepted to college because the school had a 50 percent attrition rate between 9th grade and 12th grade. The group failed to address the attrition rate of traditional urban public schools.
“Achievement First’s statement that 100 percent of its students have been accepted to college can give the false impression that all of its students reach graduation,” Principe said. “In reality, Amistad High School has experienced more than a 50 percent student attrition rate as their classes have moved from 9th grade to 12th grade.”
Total Attrition Rate: 11.4 Percent
At Amistad High School in New Haven, the 2010 and 2011 graduating classes each lost more than half of their students over four years. But officials at Achievement First, which runs high-performing elementary, middle and high schools in New York and Connecticut, say the numbers are misleading.
During the 2010-2011 school year, the organization claims its total attrition rate across each of its 19 schools was 11.4 percent, which is significantly lower than the attrition and/or mobility rates typical to urban settings.
“Like any district, students leave our schools for a variety of reasons,” Reshma Singh, vice president of external relations for Achievement First said. “In many cases this is due to circumstances out of our control such as a student moving away. In other cases, students opt to attend other schools, most of which have more specialized offerings (football, theater, etc.) than we have been able to offer. Like all Achievement First schools, our high school has an extended school day, required uniforms, and rigorous academic program.”
Singh continued: “We continually work on investing high school students in the hard work required to climb the mountain to college and building our extracurriculars and other programs to better compete with options available to our scholars. We are making progress towards those goals. The classes of 2010 and 2011, Amistad’s first two graduating classes were smaller than those succeeding them. The class of 2012, which includes students from our Elm City College Preparatory charter in New Haven, is almost double the size of the class of 2011.”
Principe, however, claims there is potential that the majority of students enrolling in an Achievement First high school won’t remain in the school through graduation. He also challenged the organization’s claim that all of its students are accepted into college.
“By default this means that Achievement First will never have less than 100% of its graduates accepted to four-year colleges,” he said. “They also specify that this is an acceptance rate, not how many of their students actually enroll in or attend college. This kind of statistic can mislead Rhode Island parents into believing that enrolling their child in an AF school guarantees they will attend college. In reality, when you look at their attrition numbers, winning the lottery at an Achievement First school isn’t about getting to attend the school, it’s about being one of the few who will actually make it to graduation.”
Singh said the organization shouldn’t be criticized for having high standards.
“Achievement First does not try to hide the fact that acceptance into a four-year college is a requirement to graduate from our high schools,” she said. “This does not mean that we ask students to withdraw from our program when they face challenges in meeting that requirement. Rather, we set extremely high expectations for each scholar and work hard to help them accomplish their goals.”
UPDATE: Councilman Principe says WeCanRI is not anti-charter school, just anti-Achievement First. He said he personally supports local charters such as the Rhode Island Nurses Institute and the International Charter School.
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- Bill Fischer: RI Needs Achievement First
- Maryellen Butke, MINDSETTER™ - Why We Need Achievement First
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Chace Baptista: Achievement First is a Lifeboat
- BREAKING: Regents Votes Down Achievement First Application
- Aaron Regunberg: The Case Against Achievement First
- Aaron Regunberg: Achievement First has Little Support in Providence
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