As part of my stats class at the Harvard Kennedy School, I reviewed the enrollment numbers for high school students at two Cambridge-based charter schools (Community Charter School of Cambridge and Prospect Hill Academy), the Cambridge Rindge & Latin School and the entire state. I was astounded to find out that, in the six year period studied, average student decline between 9th and 12th grades at the Community Charter School of Cambridge was 59%, at Prospect Hill Academy about 22%, throughout the state about 15% and at CRLS about 10%. While there may be good explanations for why we see this drop in students everywhere, the 59% decrease in student population between 9th and 12 grade at CCSC is truly staggering and warrants a lot more investigation.
The City of Cambridge spends roughly 10.5 million dollars a year paying charter school tuitions, including to CCSE and PSA, so we have both a moral and financial interest in learning how these schools operate and how they can lose such a high percentage of their students compared to both the state and, especially, CRLS. With a pro-charter school governor and head of the Department of Education, having an honest and complete discussion about Charter Schools, to include their enrollment practices and the state’s funding formula, is increasingly important.
We could only access one year’s worth of disciplinary information and, for that year, the difference between CCSC’s in and out-of school suspension rates and everyone else’s was jaw dropping. Without more data and without specific data on which kids are getting suspended and which kids are leaving, I can’t say anything for certain but the data seems to correlate very well with CCSC massive decline in students as they get older- suspend a kid often enough and eventually that student will most probably wind up someplace else and save you the trouble of either teaching or suspending him or her.
You can learn more about my research, and the various questions I think need to be considered as we struggle to improve public education in Cambridge and beyond, in my paper. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this issue.