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“Beating the Odds”: A Comparison of the Demographics and Performance of Charter Schools to District Schools in Jersey City

Ajay Srikanth, PhD Student, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

Bruce Henecker, EdD Student, Rutgers Graduate School of Education

February 5, 2016

Note: All opinions here are those of the authors and do not reflect those of their employers, the NJEA, Rutgers GSE, or their professors and advisors there.

PDF Policy Brief: Srikanth_Henecker.JC.Feb5_2016

Executive Summary

On May 13, 2015, the Jersey City Council passed a resolution urging the Governor and State Legislator to provide equitable funding for the charter schools in Jersey City. The council argues that the charters in Jersey City are some of the highest performing schools in the city and also serve demographically-similar students. Both of these assertions are inaccurate. On average, charter schools serve significantly lower percentages of students eligible for Free Lunch, lower percentages of Special Education students, and substantially lower percentages of English Language Learners. With respect to student achievement, charter schools do not outperform district schools in Language Arts or Math once you control for demographics.

In response to the council’s resolution, we propose the following:

  1. Recommend to the Jersey City Council that they pass a resolution requiring that charter schools operating in Jersey City hold weighted lotteries that increase the rate of students receiving free lunch, students who receive special education services, and students classified as Limited English Proficient (based on a recommendation stated in Weber and Rubin, 2015).
  1. Recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education develop an enhanced charter funding formula that takes into account the increased cost of educating students across the range of Special Education classifications so

that charters receive a reimbursement rate commensurate with type of special education students they serve.

  1. Recommend that the New Jersey Department of Education develop an enhanced charter funding formula that reduces the base-funding amounts charter schools receive if they do not accept English Language Learners at a rate consistent with that of the host district.
  1. Recommend that policymakers account for demographic differences when comparing school performance within and across sectors- district vs. charter.
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