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Updated IBO Study: Special-Needs Students Staying in Charters

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 29, 2015

The IBO has just confirmed what we have long known – charter school students stay in charter schools at higher rates than students in nearby traditional public schools (TPS). Even more counter to charter detractors’ claims– fewer charter school special needs students leave their schools than nearby special needs district students.


The newly released updated IBO study now includes an extra year of data to understand the mobility and attrition rates of students from kindergarten to grade 4 in charter schools and nearby traditional public schools. The update re-affirms last year’s study that found lower overall attrition rates in NYC charter schools than at district schools. Specifically:


  • 64% of kindergarten students that start in a charter school will remain at that school by 4th grade, compared to 56% that started in a nearby TPS.
  • The attrition gap between charters and nearby TPS is due to students transferring from one NYC public school to another. About 23% of charter students transferred to a different NYC public school compared to nearly 32% from the district school.

The most important update to the study is the attrition rate for students identified with special needs. The IBO admitted to flaws in last year’s analysis, which only accounted for students receiving full-time special education services, and omitted students with less-severe needs. The IBO is now using a broader definition for special needs students, which is consistent with DOE reporting. The new findings show:


  • More special needs students stay in charters than in nearby district schools
    • 53% of charter students classified as having a disability in kindergarten will remain at the charter compared to 49% that will remain in the TPS.
    • This is drastically different from last year’s report which found that only 20% of charter special need students stayed in the charter after three years.
  • The initial kindergarten class had 8.9% special education students in charters and 12.7% in TPS; however, the distribution of students by their disability type is fairly similar between the two.

  • IBO

  • A larger percentage of charter students remain at their charter in every disability type by the 4th year except students classified as “Other Health Impaired," which only retained 53.6% of these students compared to 58.2% within nearby district schools.