Gather round, children. Grandpa Johnny wants to show you how to cheat and lie without doing anything illegal. This will come in handy, especially if you want to run charter schools in New York when you grow up.
The story I am going to tell you, kids, involves something grownups call ‘Attrition,’ which means losing things, in this case children like you. ‘Attrition’ is bad, and so all charter schools try to have a low number, like maybe 5 or 6 out of 100.
In other words, if a charter school starts the year with 100 students and ends up with 95, that would be just a 5% ‘Attrition’ rate…and a reason to celebrate.
Here’s where you have to pay attention, because, if you run charter schools, YOU get to decide when to start measuring ‘Attrition.’ You could start counting on the first day of school, or you could wait until the state requires you to tell how many kids are enrolled a month and a half later.
In other words, if your school has 100 kids when classes begin on August 24th, you have 55 more days until you have to tell the State how many kids you have.
And here’s the best part: Whatever happens in that 55-day period does not count against your attrition because you can replace whoever leaves with new kids. It’s as if whoever leaves was never there!
So, suppose you realize that some kids who have enrolled don’t seem to fit in. Maybe they’re independent-minded, or maybe they are special needs children who will be very costly and difficult for you to educate. You have 55 days to find ways to get rid of those kids, whom you can then replace with children who are more likely to get with the program.
One technique is what they call ‘out of school suspension,’ basically sending kids home for some infraction or other, however minor. Do that a few times, and the parent, weary of having to take time off from work, will decide to find another school. That kid is gone, and it’s as if he never existed. No drag on your ‘Attrition’ rate, which is what matters to you.
There’s another way to cheat, kiddies, and that comes when your school year ends in mid-June. You lopped off the beginning of the year when you decided to count from October 7th. Now you can choose to completely ignore the summer months (a good idea because quite a few students decide to leave over the summer) and simply report ‘Attrition’ as of mid-June, your last day. Your ‘Attrition’ data covers about 155 days of school, not the full 180, but there’s no way for anyone to know that, unless you tell them (and why on earth would you do that?)
If the powers-that-be really wanted to know which charter schools lost lots of kids, the State would ask for one number, how many of the kids who started your school in mid-August of one year were still enrolled the next mid-August, 365 days later.
Come to think of it, if you wanted to run a charter school (or academy) that focused on the success of each child, then you would want to know which children did not succeed, and why. Rather than worry about your ‘Attrition’ rate, you would spend your time and money encouraging success and learning from your own failures.
But, kiddies, you don’t have to do that. You can lie and cheat with numbers without breaking any laws, you can boast about your low ‘Attrition’ rate, and you can fool the Governor, some very rich people, lots of the media, and some of the public.
Even better, when you look in the mirror you won’t have to think about what happened to the children you ‘disappeared’ during that 55-day period–because it’s as if they were never there.
Pretty neat, huh….