As I wrote earlier, there doesn't seem to be much correlation between each school's performance on state tests, relative to its student population, and whether or not it was approved: a relative high-flyer like Oceanside must close, while a relative poor-performer like Maria L. Varisco (at least on 8th Grade math tests) remains open. Where's the logic? What is the NJDOE's criteria for granting charters?
I started looking at student demographics for the schools in this round, hoping to find a pattern - but I honestly could not. Free Lunch eligibility, race/ethnicity, gender... none seemed to yield a correlation as to whether the NJDOE would grant a charter or not. English language proficiency wasn't even an issue: none of the schools in this round had more than 2% of LEP students in their populations.
So I was stumped... until I looked at special education rates:
The schools in green are approvals (Discovery would be green, if it had any special education students), in yellow are probations, in orange are probations with decision pending, and in red are denials. Notice a pattern?
In this last round of approvals, charter schools that take more special education kids were more likely to have their charters denied.
What about the outlier, Ridge and Valley Charter School? This K-8 school is deep in Republican country; there's no way Christie would close a charter here and anger parents unnecessarily.
It's worth pointing out that none of the charters in this round serve children with the most severe disabilities: autism, emotional disturbances, mental retardation, and so on. The vast majority spend more than 80% of their time with their classmates, and have either speech/language impairments (SLI) or specific learning disabilities (SLD) such as dyslexia. These are not the most difficult and most costly students to educate; those are left to the public schools.
Still, the classification rates are telling; it appears that charters in New Jersey that attempt to serve children with special needs pay a penalty.
Everyone OK with that?
Note: I left one of the schools approved by the NJDOE in this round out of my analysis: chARTer Tech High School. Aside from being the only Grade 9-12 school in the round, chARTer Tech stands out for its emphasis on arts education: you have to "major" in an arts speciality, and you have to submit a "skills assessment" based on your intended major.
chARTer Tech is really more like a magnet school than a charter; it wouldn't be right to include it here.
ADDING: The NJDOE told Freedom Academy earlier this year that it was likely to be denied a charter and forced to close. So that orange bar above really should have more red in it.
I wonder if NJDOE is making a deal for the school to be taken over by an outside management company. It wouldn't be the first time...