What does a child need in order to get into a charter school? They need to fill out a form, and get chosen in a lottery. But most of all, they need an advocate – someone who takes the time to fill out that form, turn it in, check on the lottery results, and navigate the procedures of re-enrollment.Foster youth often lack that advocate. So what does foster youth enrollment data in charter schools look like?
Data on foster youth is hard to come by. First of all, the state only releases data on schools with 11 or more foster youth. So if your school has 10, it is not reported. As a result, I can really only report on schools that have disproportionately high populations of foster youth.
Let’s look at a sample composed of elementary schools that are larger than the median charter elementary enrollment, and where the foster youth population is higher than 2.26% (The reason I chose those numbers is in footnotes)¹. Of a sample size of 344 elementary schools, there are 33 Elementary schools with a foster youth population higher than 2.26%. None of them are charter schools.
I am not saying that Charter Schools do not have foster students . What I am saying is that ALL of the elementary schools in our sample that have disproportionately high numbers of foster youth are traditional schools.
And if you look at these schools in comparison to their closest charter school, there is an even further discrepancy. 4.99% of Western Avenue’s students are foster youth. Apple Academy Charter School, right down the road, has an unreported number of foster youth, but even if you assumed the highest possible unreported number, they would have a population of 2.69% foster youth. So Western Avenue would have twice the projected foster population of the closest charter school. And that is assuming the highest possible number, so the foster youth difference may actually be greater.
I find these results both remarkable and completely expected. And it raises an interesting question for the Great Public Schools Now vision of expanded charter and magnet schools, and the LAUSD attempt to expand magnets. If we were to expand charter schools or magnet schools, which both require an application process – how would we make them equally accessible for foster youth?
I would love to think on this more, but the data simply isn’t openly available to me. So that is where I will leave it…for now.
¹The state only releases data on schools that have 11 or more foster youth. This would mean that data on smaller schools is very unreliable, while larger schools could be more predictable. For this reason, I have chosen the upper half of the data set to use as a sample. The median elementary charter in LA has 439.5 students. If we assumed that 10 of those students (the maximum non-reportable number) were foster youth, that would mean 2.26% of the school’s population would be foster youth. So, by using 2.26% as a threshold, we can say definitively that the 33 schools above have higher foster youth percentages than the other 311 schools in the sample. Since this yields 33 schools, it also happens to be the top 10 percent of the sample, and therefore represents disproportionately high percents of foster youth.