A few days ago we wrote about Woodland Prep charter supporters and people at the state department of elucidation constantly saying that 900 children leave Washington County each day to go to private schools out-of-county.
Turns out this number came from the application the charter submitted to the state charter school commission more than a year ago. Yep, right there on page eight of the application is a chart labeled as “Figure 2. Student enrollment trend in Washington County, AL” The graph could be for most any rural county in the state with a descending line going from 2007 to 2017.
But here is where things get funky. The chart says that in 2016 there were 3,657 children in the county ages 5-18. That year they say enrollment in the county school system was 2,813. So they subtracted the little number from the big number and the difference is 844.
So the charter folks want us to believe that ALL of these young’uns must be going to private schools somewhere. And just to make the application look better, they round up 844 to 900.
Alabama VOICES for children in Montgomery has been keeping data about children for many years. So I checked in with Rhonda Mann to find out what numbers they had. Turns out their numbers vary significantly from the ones in the application.
According to census estimates Rhonda passed along, in 2016 there were 3,342 children in the county from age five through 19. This is 315 LESS that the folks at Woodland Prep and the state department claim. Plus, the VOICES data goes through age 19–not age 18 as the application claims. (Census data is broken out by ages 5-9; 10-14 and 15-19. I have never seen it cut off at age 18.)
And since the state department says Washington County enrollment in 2016 was actually 2,811 (not 2,813 as the application says) the difference between number of children and enrollment was 531, not 844. But you must consider that by age 19 many students have graduated and some have dropped out. Which means the number of “school age” children is probably a couple hundred less than the number cited by VOICES
Did no one at the charter commission vet this application? Did they not verify info submitted was accurate? Or are they just so anxious to plop charter schools down anywhere that they don’t bother to double check anything?
Just to prove how bizarre the application is, turn over to page 9 where you find “Figure 3. Funding and student proficiency comparisons.” Here someone is trying to show that performance of school systems is not determined by the amount of per pupil funding they have.. So we have a comparison of Washington, Sumter and Baldwin county systems and Saraland city system. Saraland and Baldwin County have higher proficiency levels in reading, math and science than do Sumter and Washington.
And this is supposed to be a revelation? Are you kidding me?
This chart conveniently leaves out mention of poverty levels, the best indicator of student and school performance there is.. Free lunch rate in Baldwin is 34.8 percent and in Saraland it is 37.8 percent. These are lower than Washington County and significantly lower than Sumter County with 72.6 percent of students get free lunches.
This comparison of apples to oranges is a huge red flag to anyone who knows diddly squat about education. But again, the charter commission apparently looked the other way.
Yet, we are supposed to have confidence in the charter commission? Again, are you kidding me?
Editor’s note: The most recent state A-F report cards show that both Washington and Baldwin counties are B systems.