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Exclusive: New School Safety Map Finds NYC Charters Safer Than District Schools in Wake of Fatal Stabbing

By The 74 | October 24, 2017

The Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden returns to a critical topic he researched earlier this year — how New York City students and teachers perceive safety in their schools — at a time of heightened concern following a stabbing in a Bronx high school last month that left one student dead and another critically injured.

Eden maintains that safety and security are perhaps the most critical factor for parents in deciding where they want their children to attend school — particularly for those in struggling neighborhoods — and urged other major school districts to follow New York City’s example by conducting school climate surveys and making the results easily accessible to the public.

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Eden used survey results to create a unique series of interactive maps earlier this year showing how New York City teachers and students felt about the level of discipline and order in their schools along with fighting, bullying, gang activity, and drug use. Based on some of those results, Eden ranked the schools’ relative safety and allowed readers to compare safety across schools.

In this latest update exclusive to The 74, Eden maps school safety with an eye toward comparing traditional district schools and their closest charter school neighbors.

He finds that:

  • Overall: 64 of 150 charter schools provide a safer climate than their neighboring traditional public schools, 24 charters are less safe, and 62 charters are roughly as safe.
  • Elementary schools: 24 charters are safer than their neighboring traditional public schools, 12 are less safe, and 20 are roughly as safe.
  • Middle schools: 26 are safer than their neighboring traditional public schools, 3 are less safe, and 25 are roughly as safe.
  • High schools: 14 are safer than their neighboring traditional public schools, 9 are less safe, and 17 are roughly as safe.

Eden’s full report comparing district and charter school safety based on the 2016–17 school climate surveys will be released Wednesday.

In his earlier maps, Eden ranked elementary school safety based on teacher answers to the question “At my school, order and discipline are maintained.” Elementary school students are not surveyed. Schools where less than 15 percent of teachers said order is not maintained were labeled green/safe; schools where 15 percent to 30 percent of teachers said order is not maintained were labeled yellow/somewhat safe; schools where more than 30 percent of teachers said order wasn’t maintained were labeled red/less safe.

Middle and high schools were coded by student answers to a question regarding physical fights. Schools where less than 15 percent of students said fights happen “most” or “all” of the time were labeled green/safe; schools where 15 percent to 30 percent of students reported frequent fighting were coded yellow/somewhat safe; schools where more than 30 percent of students reported frequent physical fighting were coded red/less safe.

The color coding on the latest map uses a slightly different approach because the 2016–17 survey response choices changed. Eden assigned middle and high schools a safety index taking the percentages of positive student responses to a series of questions (e.g., the percentage agreeing their school is safe or the percentage reporting that dangerous behavior occurs rarely) and averaging them. Schools where the average of positive responses were 85 percent or better were labeled green/safe; schools where the average of positive response were 70 to 85 percent were labeled yellow/somewhat safe and those where the average of positive responses were 70 percent or less were labeled red/less safe.

For elementary schools, the color coding was based on the single question put to teachers about whether order and discipline are maintained in their schools.

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