Where did all those 6th graders go? IDEA and Martin MS Comparison

Posted on December 18, 2011

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This posts looks at the most recent cohort of 6th graders enrolling in IDEA Charter Schools and Martin MS in Austin ISD. Why start with 6th graders? Because IDEA Charter Schools are separated into elementary schools (K-5) and secondary schools (6-12). So, theoretically, students enter 6th grade and remain in IDEA Charter Schools until graduation and then 100% of them enter college.

This evidence will be criticized because it is only one cohort, but it is the latest cohort available. Thus, it reflects the most current evidence we have on the success of IDEA Charter Schools.

This analysis extends my previous analyses by including middle school grade levels in addition to grades 9 through 11. This extension is important because any school level growth measures include all grades in the school. In the case of IDEA secondary schools, the grades served include grades 6 through 12.

Tables 1 and 2 show the number and percentage of 6th grade students in the 2005-06 school year taking the TAKS mathematics and reading tests that were still enrolled in the same district in the 2010-11 school year in any grade. The analysis compares three entities: IDEA Academy, Hidalgo ISD, and Martin MS in Austin ISD.

I chose Hidalgo ISD as a relevant comparison to IDEA in the Rio Grande Valley (Hidalgo is the headquarters for IDEA) and Martin MS in Austin ISD since it is the feeder pattern that IDEA would replace in Austin ISD.

Table 1: Number and Percentage of 6th Grade Students (2005-06) Remaining in the Same District through the 2010-11 School Year by 6th Grade TAKS Mathematics Score

Table 2: Number and Percentage of 6th Grade Students (2005-06) Remaining in the Same District through the 2010-11 School Year by 6th Grade TAKS Reading Score

CONCLUSIONS

Two conclusions can readily be made based on this data. The first conclusion is that IDEA Charter Schools retained a much smaller percentage of students in the same district as compared to both Hidalgo ISD and Martin Middle School. Indeed, only 47% of the IDEA Charter School 6th grade students remained enrolled in any IDEA Charter School in 2010-11. In comparison, about 77% of the Hidalgo ISD students remained in Hidalgo ISD while 64% of the Martin MS students remained in AISD.

The second conclusion is that remaining in an IDEA Charter School is correlated with TAKS scores. Specifically, the greater the TAKS score, the more likely the student remained in IDEA. The same trend appeared with Hidalgo ISD students, but the difference in the percentage of students remaining in the district between low- and high-performers was not nearly as great as for IDEA Charter Schools. For Martin MS, a greater percentage of the average and slightly above average performing students remained in Austin ISD. The lowest-performing and high-performing were more likely to leave AISD than the students between those two groups.

This second conclusion is critically important because IDEA growth scores as calculated by FAST are very likely to be positively affected by the disappearance of the lowest performing students through peer effects. In fact, research is fairly consistent in this area, with almost all researchers finding positive effects of students being in the same classroom and school with high-performing peers.

DISCUSSION

This data is just one more piece of evidence that strongly suggests IDEA Charter Schools are not nearly as successful as IDEA Charter leaders and Austin ISD leaders claim them to be. Are they successful? In some areas, IDEA Charter Schools are successful. But, for every successful outcome, there appears to be data that suggests a troubling reason for that success.

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