Education Law Center has now expanded the user-friendly, interactive data available on its website that provides information on the demographics of New Jersey’s public school students. The new data allows users to examine the demographics of charter school students, including race, gender, socioeconomic status and special education classification, and to compare charters and host districts on these indicators and others.
The new data are organized by charter school host districts, which can be selected from a dropdown menu. The data for charter and district schools are presented using maps, bar charts, and line graphs. Charter schools are highlighted in red and district schools in gray.
The charts are highly interactive. For example, clicking on the bar representing a specific school highlights that facility’s location on the state map; conversely, clicking on a dot on the map highlights the bar for that school. Data can also be sorted within bar charts by clicking the “sort” icons on both axes. The data for general enrollments, cohort enrollments, racial composition, student poverty, special education, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), student mobility, suspensions, and assessments are arranged in separate views that can be accessed using the tabs above the title. Site visitors can toggle between these tabs while keeping their original selections in place.
General and Cohort Enrollment
The first tab displays enrollments in charter and district schools. A table displays enrollments and the number of schools by grade level so users can identify elementary, middle, and high schools. A list of all operating charter schools is also available.
The second tab displays enrollment by grade level and gender over time. By following a cohort of students, the line graphs display patterns of retention and attrition in individual charter schools compared to the district as a whole. Visitors can also explore patterns by race/ethnicity by choosing to display data for individual racial groups. A table provides calculations for total and average annual attrition rates.
The third tab compares the racial/ethnic enrollments in charter schools and host district schools. Site visitors can use the dropdown menu to select the ethnic group to view in the map and bar chart. Though charters and some district schools draw students from across the district, it can be useful to examine patterns of racial composition in schools that share similar locations.
Student poverty is typically measured using eligibility for the free or reduced price lunch program (FRL). Because charters tend to locate in districts with high levels of student poverty, it is often instructive to disaggregate this measure to distinguish between the poor and the very poor. Poverty data allow visitors to view poverty rates by either free or reduced lunch eligibility (<185% of the federal poverty guidelines) or free lunch eligibility alone (<130% poverty).
Special Education and Limited English Proficiency
The next two tabs illustrate the patterns of enrollment for special education students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and students who are learning English. These displays show whether charters and district schools are serving similar populations of special education students and English language learners.
A high level of student mobility – that is, students moving in or out of a school during the academic year – can cause disruptions for the entire school. These graphs depict the levels of mid-year student mobility experienced in district and charter schools.
Student discipline rates can be highly variable among schools. High suspension rates might indicate a volatile school environment or a strict discipline code under which students are suspended for minor infractions. Though it is impossible to distinguish between discipline policies and actual behaviors, these graphs illustrate variations in student discipline outcomes across district and charter schools.
Standardized test scores are presented as proficiency rates for each tested grade, by subject and subgroup. Visitors can choose to see results by instructional groups (general education, special education, English language learners), race/ethnicity, income groups, and gender. Reference lines are provided for both district and state proficiency levels so that performance can be analyzed more broadly.
“Taken together, these individual elements provide a rich and complex analysis of the state of NJ’s charter school program,” said ELC Research Director, Dr. Danielle Farrie, who is responsible for creating all of the data sets on the website. “The breadth of data available allows for a more sophisticated and nuanced examination of district and charter schools, and is critical to any comparison of the performance of charter and district schools.”
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