Western New York Maritime Charter School is either one of the most successful charters in Buffalo or one of the most controversial, depending on who you ask and how you view their data.
Many who attend the military-themed school clearly love it, having found a safe haven, clear expectations, academic support and a caring community of teachers and friends. The high school, founded in 2004, boasts a graduation rate of 85 percent – far above that of the Buffalo Public Schools and better than the state average.
But Maritime also has the highest attrition rate by far of any of Buffalo’s 15 charters. Roughly one out of every four students enrolled in Maritime last year were either expelled, suspended or withdrew, according to data tracked by the Buffalo district. Maritime administrators also acknowledge that the current senior class is only half the size of its freshman class.
That makes Maritime most susceptible to the criticism often lobbed by traditional public school advocates against charter schools: these independent schools excel because they have the freedom to throw out troublemakers and underachievers or persuade them to leave.
“Kids with discipline issues either are not accepted or are immediately told to leave,” said Larry Scott, a school psychologist in the Kenmore-Tonawanda school district and co-chairman of the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization. “Here you’re taking money from a traditional school district and sending those kids back to a traditional public school or not accepting them at all.”
Can a school really have an 85% graduation rate when it has such a high attrition rate?
There should be a rule change on how graduation rates are calculated - students who leave schools for no matter the reason should be counted in the graduation rate as "not graduating."
Imagine what such a rule change would do to the stats for Success Academy, the KIPPsters, Achievement First and Wester New York Maritime Charter School.