Gazette analysis surveyed five years of state data
The figures compiled by the Gazette reflect two things: money and students. The data show how much individual communities paid out and how much they received in charter school and school-choice tuition.
The Gazette surveyed five years of state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education records, fiscal years 2008-2012, to get an understanding of how student enrollments in choice and charter schools affect school budgets over the long term. Looking at enrollment and tuition figures over a five-year period yields a more trustworthy average and protects data against one-year aberrations, such as a particularly large group leaving a district through school choice in a single year.
The paper’s analysis relied on two data sources provided by the state: Charter School Tuition Payments and Reimbursements for Sending Districts, fourth quarter; and School Choice Pupils and Tuition. Members of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, as well as the state Department of Revenue who reviewed the processes used by the Gazette to create comparison charts, found the methods to be sound and accurate.
The calculations in the Gazette analysis also show how many “full-time equivalent” students left or opted into specific local districts over five years.
The full-time equivalencies or FTEs — which are different from an outright counting of individual children — are how the state education department tracks students. FTEs are based on hours of education as opposed to numbers of students. So, for example, a student who attended a school for half a school year would be recorded as 0.5 of an FTE student.
By that measure, it is impossible to calculate how many individual choice or charter students continue year to year in an out-of-district school. An individual full-time student is counted as one FTE for each year they attend a school.