Coleman Poses SRC testimony – May 26, 2016

Dear members of the SRC. My reason for coming before you tonight is to offer some information as well as my opinions concerning the exchange between the SRC members and Charter Office chief, Dawn Lynn Kacer, that took place last month.

In answer to a question by Commissioner Houston, Ms. Kacer presented three possible scenarios why less catchment area families might be enrolled at a renaissance school five years after conversion. They were:

  1. That families moved out of the district but could still attend the school
  2. That siblings in those families who moved out of the district could also attend
  3. That students from feeder schools into renaissance schools can come from anywhere in the City.

Ms. Kacer also implied that the heavy mobility in those catchment areas might substantiate her first two claims.

Commissioner Houston’s question was followed up by one from Commissioner Jimenez, who asked whether it was possible that the number of students from the catchment had actually increased while the percentage of students decreased at the catchment. In the exchange that followed, Ms. Kacer seemed to imply that neither the charter renewal reports nor Councilwoman Gym’s analysis touched upon such data. In fact, Councilwoman Gym’s analysis states,

  • Five of the six charters now serve a lower percentage of catchment-area students.
  • Four of the six charters are serving smaller numbers of catchment-area students.

The data that Councilwoman Gym used came from the district’s charter renewal report, which contains the information that Commissioner Jimenez had requested last month, and which I have included for you along with my testimony.

charter speadsheet May 27, 2016

I would also like to add one additional comment to Councilwoman Gym’s analysis by observing that no renaissance charter school increased its percentage of pre-charter in-catchment students after five years.

Where does that leave us? Do we accept the charter office’s analysis that geographic mobility is responsible for the decline in the number and percentage of in-catchment students at these schools, or are there barriers to enrollment that certain types of in-catchment students face at these schools, which is Councilwoman Gym’s assumption. From the manner in which these evaluations were conducted, it is impossible to side with one interpretation over another. The only way to understand what is going on at these renaissance schools is to take sizable samples of both neighborhood students who no longer attend the renaissance schools, and out of neighborhood students who do attend these schools. From these samples, district staff could review records and interview families. I understand that such a task will place an undue burden upon the charter office. Perhaps additional help could come from education students at some of the City’s various teachers’ colleges.

The benefits of such a survey should outweigh both its costs and the speculation that currently drives Charter Office policy in the renaissance process. Thank you.