The @NYTopinion Trumpian support of charter schools

Trumpian=twisted and incorrect sense of reality. So you might have had a chance to hear what charter proponents and education “reformers” have said recently in the New York Times and everywhere else about the NAACP charter resolution that will be voted on the the National Board this weekend.

Donald Trump loves charter schools and market-based approaches to education.

What does the peer reviewed research say about charters schools (Not CREDO)?

I contacted the nation’s top researchers from across the nation who have published peer reviewed research on school choice to crowd source a charter research reading list. (First posted here)

I simply asked them to recommend a few peer reviewed papers that the public could consider in the debate surround charters success, access and inclusion. The vast majority of the information they responded with was peer reviewed work, however there are a few dissertations, books and other items that they felt the public should be aware of. So, without further ado, here is a crowd sourced charter reader. It is lengthy, but I think the research covers many of the arguments you typically hear from charter proponent Kool-Aid drinkers.

Please share online and forward via email to folks you think may be interested in this new charter reader. There is allot of independent research here, which is the point.

Julian Vasquez Heilig // California State University Sacramento

Vasquez Heilig, J., Williams, A., McNeil, L & Lee, C. (2011). Is choice a panacea? An analysis of black secondary student attrition from KIPP, other private charters and urban districts. Berkeley Review of Education2(2), 153-178.

Public concern about pervasive inequalities in traditional public schools, combined with growing political, parental, and corporate support, has created the expectation that charter schools are the solution for educating minorities, particularly Black youth. There is a paucity of research on the educational attainment of Black youth in privately operated charters, particularly on the issue of attrition. This paper finds that on average peer urban districts in Texas show lower incidence of Black student dropouts and leavers relative to charters. The data also show that despite the claims that 88-90% of the children attending KIPP charters go on to college, their attrition rate for Black secondary students surpasses that of their peer urban districts. And this is in spite of KIPP spending 30–60% more per pupil than comparable urban districts. The analyses also show that the vast majority of privately operated charter districts in Texas serve very few Black students.

Vasquez Heilig, J., LeClair, A. V., Redd, L., & Ward, D. (in press). Separate and Unequal?: The Problematic Segregation of Special Populations in Charter Schools Relative to Traditional Public Schools. Stanford Law & Policy ReviewXX(X), XXX-XXX.

The extent to which special student populations (ELL, Special Education and Economically Disadvantaged) gain access to charter schools is understudied. In this article we compare the enrollment of high-need special populations in charter schools with non-charter public schools at the state, district, and local levels. State-level dissimilarity analyses show only modest disparities in segregation and access of high-need students within the Texas charter system compared to traditional public schools. However, local-level descriptive and geospatial analyses of charters in a large metropolitan area shows that there are large disparities in the enrollment of high-need students relative to traditional public schools nearby. We conclude by discussing implications for law and policy.

DeBray, E., Scott, J., Lubienski, C., & Jabbar, H. (2014). Intermediary Organizations in Charter School Policy Coalitions: Evidence from New Orleans. Educational Policy, 28 (2)

This article develops a framework for investigating research use, using an “advocacy coalition framework” and the concepts of a “supply side” (mainly organizations) and “demand side” (policymakers). Drawing on interview data and documents from New Orleans about the charter school reforms that have developed there since 2005, the authors examine (a) the role of intermediaries in producing information and research syntheses for local, state, and/or federal policymakers; (b) the extent of policymakers’ demand for such research and information; and (c) the extent to which local and national coalitions of organizations appear to be influential in research use. The article concludes that there are two coalitions in New Orleans that differ in their interpretations of charter school performance, equity, and access; that there is overall very low research capacity within the intermediary sector; and that there is little evidence of demand from state policymakers for research findings. There was agreement across both coalitions that there is a lack of a credible and non-partisan research group studying the reforms, that is, one that produces data analyses that are not merely descriptive. The authors map preliminary findings about how intermediary organizations are connected to national groups, as well as how research is shared within coalitions.

Frankenberg, E., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Wang, J. (2011, January). Choice without equity: Charter school segregation. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 19(1). Retrieved from

The political popularity of charter schools is unmistakable. This article explores the relationship between charter schools and segregation across the country, in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charter school students in 2007-08. The descriptive analysis of the charter school enrollment is aimed at understanding the enrollment and characteristics of charter school students and the extent to which charter school students are segregated, including how charter school segregation compare to students in traditional public schools. This article examines these questions at different levels, aggregating school-level enrollment to explore patterns among metropolitan areas, states, and the nation using three national datasets. Our findings suggest that charters currently isolate students by race and class. This analysis of recent data finds that charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation. In some regions, white students are over-represented in charter schools while in other charter schools, minority students have little exposure to white students. Data about the extent to which charter schools serve low-income and English learner students is incomplete, but suggest that a substantial share of charter schools may not enroll such students. As charters represent an increasing share of our public schools, they influence the level of segregation experienced by all of our nation’s school children. After two decades, the promise of charter schools to use choice to foster integration and equality in American education has not yet been realized.

Amy Williams, University of Texas at Austin doctoral dissertation Special Populations and Rational Decision Making in Texas Urban Charter Schools

In an era of rapid charter school growth, this study sought to examine rational decision making for special populations in Texas urban charter schools. To investigate differences among charters, I categorized the schools into three groups: network corporate charters, community corporate charters, and intergovernmental charters.

Quantitative analysis, including the use of ANOVAs and Tukeys, helped identify differences in expenditures among the three charter groups. Intergovernmental charters focused their spending on teachers and student programs, including programs for students with disabilities and ESL and bilingual programs. Community corporate charters spent less in most categories, except, in the majority of years, for social work, food services, cocurricular activities, and data processing. Network charters channeled their funding into areas such as school leadership, facilities, security and monitoring, and accelerated education.

I then used qualitative analysis to understand how charter school administrators decide to spend their money in a way that is most cost-effective for their operations relative to their student populations. I completed 20 interviews with charter school administrators in four Texas cities. Administrators in charters were aware of the competitive accountability and fiscal environment in which they were running their schools. This resulted in cost-effective rational decision making. Charter administrators were also under significant financial stress and did not believe that their schools were adequately funded, though some charters still sought to make a profit or increase their net assets. To make up the difference in funding, some charters have relied on grants and donations from other corporations. Administrators also discussed special populations of students, such as ESL/bilingual students and students with disabilities.

Garcia, D. R. (2008). Academic and racial segregation in charter schools: Do parents sort students into specialized charter schools? Education and Urban Society40(5), 590- 612. doi: 10.1177/0013124508316044

This article focuses on how parental school choices affect the degree of racial and academic segregation in charter schools. The research design allows for a direct comparison of the racial and academic conditions of the district schools students exited to the charter schools they entered. Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools. Simultaneously, parents enroll their students into charter schools with at least the same degree of academic integration as the district schools that students exited. The academic and racial segregation results are then used to test the extent to which students congregate into specialized charter schools according to hypothesized patterns. The findings call into question the assertion of charter school advocates that segregated conditions in charter schools are the result of students self-selecting into specialized charter schools.

Lacireno-Paquet, N., Holyoke, T. T., Moser, M., & Henig, J. R. (2002). Creaming versus cropping: Charter school enrollment practices in response to market incentives. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(2), 145-158. doi: 10.3102/01623737024002145

Proponents of school choice present market-based competition as a means of leveling disparities between race, class and performance in public school systems. Opponents see school choice as threatening to exacerbate this problem because competition for students will pressure individual schools into targeting students with the highest performance and the least encumbered with personal and social disadvantages. We suggest that some charter schools, by background and affiliation, are likely to be more market-oriented in their behavior than others, and test the proposition that market-oriented charter schools engage in cream-skimming while others disproportionately serve highly disadvantaged students. Comparing student composition in market-oriented charter schools, nonmarket-oriented charter schools, and traditional public schools in Washington, DC, we find little evidence that market-oriented charters are focusing on an elite clientele, but they are less likely than the other two types of schools to serve some high need populations. Rather than skimming the cream off the top of the potential student population, market-oriented charter schools may be “cropping off” service to students whose language or special education needs make them more costly to educate.

Francesca Lopez // University of Arizona

Positioning Charter Schools in Los Angeles: Diversity of Form and Homogeneity of Effects Douglas Lee Lauen, Bruce Fuller and Luke Dauter American Journal of Education Vol. 121, No. 2 (February 2015), pp. 213-239

In our article Positioning Charter Schools in Los Angeles: Diversity of Form and Homogeneity of Effects we examined the three most prominent types of charters serving elementary grades between 2002 and 2008: independent start-ups, independent conversions, and affiliated conversions. We asked two empirical questions. First, what types of families and students attend particular kinds of charter school organizations? We found substantial differences in the background characteristics of charter and traditional public school students. Charter school students were less likely to be Black, Latino, LEP, special education, and low income and were more likely to be White, academically gifted, high achieving, and have more highly educated parents. For example, about 12 percent of the parents of traditional public school students attained a college degree or higher, compared with 35 percent of the parents of charter school students. We also found that one type of charter – affiliated conversions – serves a much more advantaged student population than either independent start-ups or independent conversions. The percentage of highly educated parents (college degree or higher) in these three types of schools is 71 percent, 25 percent, and 6 percent, respectively.

Second, across this segmented field of charter schools, do differing types of charters display varying effects on achievement growth over time? Despite serving a more advantaged student population than traditional public schools in LAUSD, charter effects on student test score growth were unimpressive. We examined charter school effects on test score growth overall, by charter type, and across four different cohorts of students, only for those students who remain in a charter or traditional public school during the time series. We report no statistically significant positive effects of attending a charter school on achievement growth. For the first three cohorts studied, charter school effects on test score growth were negative and significant. For the last cohort studied, the effect was negative, but not statistically significant. We find some small differences across charter types, but none of the charter school enrollment effects on test score growth for any cohort were positive among any of the three types examined. In conversion charters, the type of school with the most advantaged student population, the effects on test score growth were negative and significant for all four cohorts.

Good, T. L., & Braden, J. S. (2014). The great school debate: Choice, vouchers, and charters. New York: Routledge.

This book examines reform in American education over the past fifty years and against this backdrop presents a compelling analysis of why contemporary voucher plans and charter schools have yet to fulfill the expectations of their advocates. It is the only book to date to attempt a comprehensive synthesis and analysis of the emerging research base on vouchers and charter schools. Suitable for courses in school policy, school reform, school leadership, or educational issues, it will also be of interest to anyone (parents, teachers, policymakers) directly involved with the charter school movement.

Lubienski, C. (2003). Innovation in education markets: Theory and evidence on the impact of competition and choice in charter schools. American Educational Research Journal, 40, 395-443

Charter schools elevate choice and competition to foster educational innovations. Indeed, these market-style mechanisms are intended to challenge standardized practices associated with district administration of schools. However, a comprehensive review of practices in charter schools indicates that, although some organizational innovations are evident, classroom strategies tend toward the familiar. Drawing on organizational and economic theory, this article considers the forces shaping educational innovation in market-oriented reforms. Although reformers assume that competition and choice necessarily lead to innovations within schools, a more complex examination of competitive institutional environments suggests that mechanisms employed by reformers may actually undercut their intended purposes. The discussion highlights the potential for choice and competition to constrain opportunities for educational innovation and to impose pedagogical and curricular conformity.

Maul, A., & McClelland, A. (2013). Review of “National Charter School Study 2013.” Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University analyzed differences in student performance at charter schools and traditional public schools across 27 states and New York City. The study finds a small positive effect of being in a charter school on reading scores and no impact on math scores; it presents these results as showing a relative improvement in average charter school quality since CREDO’s 2009 study. However, there are significant reasons for caution in interpreting the results. Some concerns are technical: the statistical technique used to compare charter students with “virtual twins” in traditional public schools remains insufficiently justified, and may not adequately control for “selection effects” (i.e., families selecting a charter school may be very different from those who do not). The estimation of “growth” (expressed in “days of learning”) is also insufficiently justified, and the regression models fail to correct for two important violations of statistical assumptions. However, even setting aside all concerns with the analytic methods, the study overall shows that less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrollment. With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant, but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.

Jennifer Holme // University of Texas at Austin

Government Accountability Office. (2012). Charter schools: Additional federal attention needed to help protect access for students with disabilities. Washington, DC: Author.

Charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools, but little is known about the factors contributing to these differences. In school year 2009-2010, which was the most recent data available at the time of our review, approximately 11 percent of students enrolled in traditional public schools were students with disabilities compared to about 8 percent of students enrolled in charter schools.

GAO also found that, relative to traditional public schools, the proportion of charter schools that enrolled high percentages of students with disabilities was lower overall. Specifically, students with disabilities represented 8 to 12 percent of all students at 23 percent of charter schools compared to 34 percent of traditional public schools. However, when compared to traditional public schools, a higher percentage of charter schools enrolled more than 20 percent of students with disabilities. Several factors may help explain why enrollment levels of students with disabilities in charter schools and traditional public schools differ, but the information is anecdotal. For example, charter schools are schools of choice, so enrollment levels may differ because fewer parents of students with disabilities choose to enroll their children in charter schools. In addition, some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling. Further, in certain instances, traditional public school districts play a role in the placement of students with disabilities in charter schools. In these instances, while charter schools participate in the placement process, they do not always make the final placement decisions for students with disabilities. Finally, charter schools’ resources may be constrained, making it difficult to meet the needs of students with more severe disabilities.

Most of the 13 charter schools GAO visited publicized and offered special education services, but faced challenges serving students with severe disabilities. Most charter school officials said they publicized the availability of special education services in several ways, including fliers and placing ads in the local newspaper. Many charter schools GAO visited also reported tailoring special education services to individuals’ needs, but faced challenges serving students with severe disabilities due to insufficient resources. About half of the charter school officials GAO interviewed cited insufficient resources, including limited space, as a challenge.

The U.S. Department of Education’s (Education) Office for Civil Rights has undertaken two compliance reviews related to charter schools’ recruitment and admission of students with disabilities in three states, but has not issued recent guidance covering admission practices in detail, nor has Education conducted recent research about factors affecting lower enrollment in charter schools. The three states GAO visited already have taken steps to monitor charter schools’ admission practices. In addition, officials in these three states reported prohibiting disability-related questions on charter school admission forms, in part to protect students with disabilities’ access.

Jabbar, H. (2015). Every Kid is Money: Market-like competition and school leader strategies in New Orleans. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.

One of the primary aims of choice policies is to introduce competition between schools. When parents can choose where to send their children, there is pressure on schools to improve to attract and retain students. However, do school leaders recognize market pressures? What strategies do they use in response? This study examines how choice creates school-level actions using qualitative data from 30 schools in New Orleans. Findings suggest that school leaders did experience market pressures, yet their responses to such pressures varied, depending in part on their perceptions of competition and their status in the market hierarchy. Some took steps toward school improvement, by making academic and operational changes, whereas others engaged in marketing or cream skimming.

Welsh, R., Duque, M., McEachin, A. (Forthcoming). School choice, student mobility and school quality: Evidence from post-Katrina New Orleans. Education Finance and Policy[Link to pre-publication version]

In recent decades, school choice policies predicated on student mobility have gained prominence as urban districts address chronically low-performing schools. However, scholars have highlighted equity concerns related to choice policies. The case of post-Katrina New Orleans provides an opportunity to examine student mobility patterns in a choice-based district. This paper analyzes student mobility between and within the various sectors and school types using a multinomial framework. We find rates of student mobility in post-Katrina New Orleans to be similar to other traditional urban school districts. Overall, our results indicate that high-achieving students switch to high quality schools while low-achieving students transfer to low quality schools. It is clear some students are taking advantage of the ability to choose a high quality educational option, while many students are still not. Policy implications especially for education policymakers implementing or considering school choice policies and areas for future research are discussed.

Roxana Marachi // San José State University

See over 100 articles, blogs, and news reports documenting concerns and harms of corporate charter expansion may be accessed at the following collection.: Marachi, R., (2015). Charter Schools & Choice: A Closer Look. Curated collection retrievable from:

Hirji, R. (2014). Are Charter Schools Upholding Student Rights? American Bar Association. Available online at

The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right. The decisions of Scott B. and Lindsey may encourage charter schools to push certain students out and make it easier to deny them the benefits of a publicly supported education. The perception that charter schools are open to all students is being called into question by increasing evidence that children who are disadvantaged by a disability, poverty, or being a member of a minority group, or who have been accused of an offense, may not have the same access to charter schools as those are not.

Kretchmar K., Sondel, B., & Ferrare, J.J. (2014). Mapping the Terrain: Teach For America, Charter School Reform, and Corporate Sponsorship. Journal of Education Policy. 29(6), 742-759.

In this paper we illustrate the relationships between Teach For America (TFA) and federal charter school reform to interrogate how policy decisions are shaped by networks of individuals, organizations, and private corporations. We use policy network analysis to create a visual representation of TFA’s key role in developing and connecting personnel, political support, and financial backing for charter reform. Next we examine how the networks unfold at a local level by zooming in on a case study of New Orleans. By mapping out these connections, we hope to provide a foundation for further investigation of how this network affects policies.

[You knew TFA was going to make an appearance didn’t you?)

Persson, J. (2015). CMD Publishes Full List of 2,500 Closed Charter Schools (With Interactive Map). Center for Media and Democracy. Available at

Today, the Center for Media and Democracy is releasing a complete state-by-state list of the failed charter schools since 2000. Among other things, this data reveals that millions and millions of federal tax dollars went to “ghost” schools that never even opened to students. The exact amount is unknown because the U.S. Department of Education is not required to report its failures, where money went to groups to help them start new charters that never even opened.

As CMD has calculated, nearly 2,500 charter schools have shuttered between 2001and 2013, affecting 288,000 American children enrolled in primary and secondary schools, and the failure rate for charter schools is much higher than for traditional public schools.

Simon, S. (2013). Special Report: Class Struggle – How Charter Schools Get Students They Want. Reuters: U.S. Edition. Available online at:

Getting in can be grueling.Students may be asked to submit a 15-page typed research paper, an original short story, or a handwritten essay on the historical figure they would most like to meet. There are interviews. Exams. And pages of questions for parents to answer, including: How do you intend to help this school if we admit your son or daughter?

These aren’t college applications. They’re applications for seats at charter schools.

Taylor, J., Cregor, M., & Lane, P. (2014). Not Measuring Up: Massachusetts’ Students of Color and Students with Disabilities Receive Disproportionate Discipline, Especially in Charter Schools. Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights and Economic Justice. Available at:

…A significant number of charter schools, particularly those in the Boston area, had high discipline rates. Roxbury Preparatory Charter suspended 6 out of every 10 students out-of-school at least once, while the Edward Brooke Charter in Roslindale averaged 5.8 out-of-school suspensions – all for non-violent, non-criminal, non-drug offenses– for each suspended student.

Woodworth, J.L., Raymond, M.E., Chirbas, K., Gonzalez, M., Negassi, Y., Snow, W., & Van Donge, C. (2015). Online Charter School Study. Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.

Innovative new research suggests that students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools. The National Study of Online Charter Schools, released today, offers a rigorous analysis of the operations of online charter schools, their policy environments, and their impacts on student achievement. Conducted by three independent research institutions, the study is the most comprehensive examination of online charter schools to date, and is organized into separate, topical report volumes. In Volume I, Mathematica Policy Research describes the universe of online charter schools, the students they serve, and their operations. In Volume II, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington describes the policy environments of online charter schools and provides recommendations to state policymakers. In Volume III, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University describes the achievement effects of online charter schools.

Civil Rights complaints and documents from the Katrina Truth (Education) page may be accessed here:

Accountability for what’s happening in New Orleans schools has been sorely lacking. While 92% of students are now enrolled in charters, many charter schools have failed to accommodate students with disabilities or limited English proficiency, violating federal law and prompting civil rights complaints to federal agencies. Making matters worse, students enrolled in New Orleans charters are subject to harsher charter-specific discipline policies aimed at pushing out even more students. Suspension rates at New Orleans charters, especially for out-of-school suspensions, are among some of the worst in the nation, with several schools above Louisiana’s already high statewide average and a select group at “rates of 40, 50, 60% and more each year.” When coupled with school arrests, this denial of equal access to education is something that FFLIC and other grassroots organizations have long spoken out against, especially in comprehensive reports like Pushed Out: Harsh Discipline in Louisiana Schools Denies The Right to Education.

Education policy that relies upon exclusionary enrollment, punitive discipline, and school closures to achieve its results isn’t reform. It’s the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s the dismantling of public education.

Huriya Jabbar // University of Texas at Austin

Henig, J. R., & MacDonald, J. A. (2002). Locational decisions of charter schools: Probing the market metaphor. Social Science Quarterly83(4), 962–980. doi:10.1111/1540-6237.00126

Debate about market–oriented school–choice proposals often centers on questions of whether they will help or hurt minorities and the poor. We examine the locational decisions of different types of charter schools in the District of Columbia (D.C.) to assess their distributional consequences. Methods. We employ ordered probit regression to estimate models of the degree to which census tracts are served by charters. Results. Charters are more likely to locate in areas with high proportions of African–American and Hispanic residents than in the predominantly white neighborhoods, and more likely to locate in neighborhoods with middle incomes and high home ownership than in either poor or wealthy areas of the city. This is especially true of those operated by for–profits and those chartered by the elected rather than appointed chartering body. Additionally, we observe charters taking political and practical considerations into account when deciding where to locate. Conclusions. Proponents claim that charter schools will locate where need is greatest, while critics fear they will shy away from neighborhoods housing disadvantaged and minority students. We find that both camps are oversimplifying. Locational patterns are more complex and appear to be sensitive to variations in the type of charter school as well as the institutional characteristics of the chartering agency. Although market incentives are important, so too are pragmatic factors and institutional context.

Jennings, J. (2010). School choice or schools’ choice?: Managing in an era of accountability. Sociology of Education83(3), 227–247.

Drawing on a year and a half of ethnographic research in three New York City small high schools, this study examines the role of the school in managing school choice and asks what social processes are associated with principals’ disparate approaches. Although district policy did not allow principals to select students based on their performance, two of the three schools in this study circumvented these rules to recruit and retain a population that would meet local accountability targets. This article brings together sensemaking and social network theories to offer a theoretical account of schools’ management of choice in an era of accountability. In doing so, the author demonstrates that principals’ sensemaking about the accountability and choice systems occurred within the interorganizational networks in which they were embedded and was strongly conditioned by their own professional biographies and worldviews. Principals’ networks offered access to resources that could be activated to make sense of the accountability and choice systems. How principals perceived accountability and choice policies influenced whether they activated their social networks for assistance in strategically managing the choice process, as well as how they made sense of advice available to them through these networks. Once activated, principals’ networks provided uneven access to instrumental and expressive resources. Taken together, these results suggest that schools respond to accountability and choice plans in varied ways that are not simply a function of their short-term incentives.

Lubienski, C., Gulosino, C., & Weitzel, P. (2009). School choice and competitive incentives: Mapping the distribution of educational opportunities across local education markets. American Journal of Education115(4), 601–647.

Competition sparked by school choice is expected to generate greater educational opportunities, particularly for disadvantaged students. The premise is that competitive incentives will change the organizational behavior of schools (and districts, dioceses, etc.) in ways that will lead to more equitable access for students across varied and often segregated urban landscapes. Drawing from theories of institutional environments and nonprofit firms, this analysis investigates patterns of access across three highly competitive local education markets to determine how school choices are arranged as options expand. The findings indicate that competitive incentives can have similar impacts on different types of organizations, but both policy variations and contextual factors such as demographic distributions may also play critical roles in shaping the market structures in which schools operate. Notably, all three cases showed patterns of exclusionary strategies that schools embraced to enhance market position.

Buckley, J., & Sattin-Bajaj, C. (2011). Are ELL Students Underrepresented in Charter Schools? Demographic Trends in New York City, 2006–2008. Journal of School Choice5(1), 40–65.

Analysts of charter school reform have recently begun to investigate the enrollment patterns of special student populations, namely, low-income students, students classified as special education, and those with English language learner status. Using 3 recent years of data from the New York State School Report Cards and analyzing the charter population at the school level, the authors found that English language learners are consistently underrepresented in charter school populations across 3 academic years. Conversely, students who qualify for reduced-price lunch are overrepresented and students eligible for free lunch are approximately proportionally represented. This gap in enrollments of English language learners is confirmed by comparing to a population estimate drawn from data from the 2006-2008 American Community Survey. These patterns remain generally constant for all school years observed, but the distribution changes slightly as the total number of charter schools operating in New York City increased between 2005-2006 and 2007-2008.

Corcoran, S. & Jennings, 2015. The Gender Gap in Charter School Enrollment. 2015. NCSPE.

Though many studies have investigated the extent to which the racial, socioeconomic, and academic composition of charter schools differs from traditional schools, no studies have examined whether charters enroll and/or retain a higher fraction of girls. Understanding the gender balance of charters is critical to evaluating their distributional consequences and efficacy, given strong evidence of female peer effects, and a correlation between gender and non-cognitive skills relevant to school performance. Analyzing enrollment data for all charter and public schools from 1999-00 through 2006-07, we find that charters enroll a significantly higher fraction of girls, an imbalance that is largest in the secondary grades, and has grown steadily each year. We next use longitudinal data on North Carolina students to examine whether differential rates of retention and attrition help explain the gender gap in charter attendance. While attrition from charter schools is higher in all grades than from traditional schools, we find that boys are only slightly more likely to exit charter schools once enrolled. This suggests that much of the gender enrollment gap occurs at intake.

Articles showing little or no evidence of cream skimming or cropping:

Buckley, J., & Schneider, M. (2005). Are Charter School Students Harder to Educate? Evidence From Washington, D.C. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis27(4), 365–380.

Zimmer, R. W., & Guarino, C. M. (2013). Is There Empirical Evidence That Charter Schools “Push Out” Low-Performing Students? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis35(4), 461–480.

Nichols-Barrer, I., Gleason, P., Gill, B., & Tuttle, C. C. (2015). Student Selection, Attrition, and Replacement in KIPP Middle Schools. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 0162373714564215.

Gary Miron // Western Michigan University

Miron, G., Urschel, J. L., & Saxton, N. (2011). What makes KIPP work? A study of student characteristics, attrition and school finance. Teachers College, NY: National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education and Western Michigan University, MI: the Study Group on Educational Management Organizations.

KIPP schools have substantially higher levels of attrition than do their local school districts. Our analysis revealed that on, average, approximately 15% of the students disappear from the KIPP grade cohorts each year.

Between grades 6 and 8, the size of the KIPP grade cohorts drop by 30%. The actual attrition rate is likely to be higher since some of the KIPP schools do fill in some of the vacated places after grade 6.

When these figures are further broken out by race and gender, we can see that a full 40% of the African American male students leave KIPP schools between grades 6 and 8. Overall a higher proportion of African American students than other ethnic groups leave the KIPP schools, and girls are much more likely remain in the KIPP schools across all ethnic groups.

Attrition rates for students qualifying for students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch are approximately equal for KIPP schools and their host districts.

Miron, G. (2014). Charters Should Be Expected to Serve All Kinds of Students. Education Next. 14(4). Fall, 2014.

Charter schools nationally serve far fewer students with disabilities—8 to 10 percent of their students on average—than district schools, which serve 13.1 percent. Some state funding formulas encourage charter schools to enroll students with disabilities, while in other states there are clear financial disincentives. In a few states, expenses for special education delivered by charter schools are paid by the local districts, or the services are delivered by special education teachers employed by the district. As a result, enrollment figures vary widely from state to state. On average, however, the disabled students charter schools enroll tend to have disabilities that are less severe and less costly to remediate than those of students in district schools.

Miron, G., Urschel, J. L., Mathis, W. J., & Tornquist, E. (2010, February). Schools without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [October 21, 2011] at‑Seg.pdf.

This study, “Schools Without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools, and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System,” explores the hotly debated question as to whether charter schools increase or decrease school segregation. This research used a national database of schools operated by Education Management Organizations (EMO), 95% of which are charter schools. The research question was whether these EMO-operated charter schools integrate or segregate students by four key demographic characteristics: ethnic/minority classification, socioeconomic status, disabling condition and English language facility. The analysis found that, as compared with the public school district in which the charter school resided, the charter schools were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language. While charter schools have rapidly grown, the strong segregative pattern found in 2001 is virtually unchanged through 2007.

Erica Frankenberg // Penn State University

Stephen Kotok, Erica Frankenberg, Kai A. Schafft, Bryan A. Mann, and Edward J. Fuller School Choice, Racial Segregation, and Poverty Concentration: Evidence From Pennsylvania Charter School Transfers

This article examines how student movements between traditional public schools (TPSs) and charters—both brick and mortar and cyber—may be associated with both racial isolation and poverty concentration. Using student-level data from the universe of Pennsylvania public schools, this study builds upon previous research by specifically examining student transfers into charter schools, disaggregating findings by geography. We find that, on average, the transfers of African American and Latino students from TPSs to charter schools were segregative. White students transferring within urban areas transferred to more racially segregated schools. Students from all three racial groups attended urban charters with lower poverty concentration.

Robert Bifulco and Helen F. Ladd Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Winter, 2007), pp. 31-56 School Choice, Racial Segregation, and Test-Score Gaps: Evidence from North Carolina’s Charter School Program

Using panel data that track individual students from year to year, we examine the effects of charter schools in North Carolina on racial segregation and black-white test score gaps. We find that North Carolina’s system of charter schools has increased the racial isolation of both black and white students, and has widened the achievement gap. Moreover, the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of black students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left. Our analysis of charter school choices suggests that asymmetric preferences of black and white charter school students (and their families) for schools of different racial compositions help to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.

Marc L. Stein Public School Choice and Racial Sorting: An Examination of Charter Schools in Indianapolis Source: American Journal of Education, Vol. 121, No. 4 (August 2015), pp. 597-627

There has been a long-standing concern among education researchers and policymakers that public school choice may lead to increased racial isolation. Improving on aggregate comparisons, I examine the sorting of students into charter schools by tracking individual students from their charter school of enrollment back to the school they were enrolled in immediately prior to the switch to charter school, allowing for a direct comparison of school racial demographics between the two sectors. I find evidence that the process of charter school choice in Indianapolis leads to higher degrees of racial isolation and less diversity within schools than is present in the underlying process of student school transfers in the public school district from which a majority of these students came.

Kevin Welner // University of Colorado Boulder

This piece bends over backward to present this as he-said/she-said on charters and diversity: I think it’s useful in seeing the strongest research that might be cited against a given point. Lots of comparison charter vs. traditional school data here presented in a reader friendly fashion

Welner, K. ( 2013). The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment, Teachers College Record, Available from ID Number: 17104 and

This commentary offers a classification of twelve different approaches that charter schools use to structure their student enrollment. These practices impact the likelihood of students enrolling with a given set of characteristics, be it higher (or lower) test scores, students with ‘expensive’ disabilities, English learners, students of color, or students in poverty.

Wendy Chi, doctoral dissertation. Racial isolation in charter schools: Achieving the goals of diversity and constitutionality in the post-PICS era:

Charter schools can increase educational equity by expanding schooling options to disadvantaged students, allowing such students to choose schools outside their often racially isolated neighborhoods. Students and parents can also choose charter schools to further sort and isolate themselves by race and achievement, however. This study uses empirical approaches to explore racial isolation and sorting patterns, including whether racial and achievement self-sorting exist in Delaware’s charter schools, and legal approaches concerning how to address potential racial isolation concerns. Delaware has a long history of racial isolation in its schools, highlighting the importance of this analysis.

The empirical portion of this study investigates whether charter schools in Delaware provide a mechanism for student self-sorting. It analyzes the transfer patterns of students with certain characteristics as they switch from traditional public schools (TPSs) to charter schools and vice versa. Using longitudinal student-level data, this study tracks each student who switched from TPSs to charter schools and vice versa, to identify the specific TPSs and charter schools that each student attended. It examines the racial compositions and achievement levels of students’ previous TPSs and their charter schools to determine whether students are moving to schools with a higher proportion of their own race or higher (or lower) scoring students than the schools they left.

The outcomes suggest that students are switching to charter schools with more of their own race. In addition, non-minority students transfer to higher performing charter schools while minority students move to lower performing charters. In light of these results, this dissertation continues with a legal analysis that provides charter schools and policymakers with guidance on how they can alleviate racial isolation concerns, informed by the recent Supreme Court decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007), which struck down race-conscious plans in Seattle and Louisville. It also investigates the enrollment practices of charter schools in Delaware, which may be hindering attempts to reduce racial isolation.

Exploring the School Choice Universe: Evidence and Recommendations (National Education Policy Center) Chapters 4 & 9 of

Exploring the School Choice Universe: Evidence and Recommendations gives readers a comprehensive, complete picture of choice policies and issues. In doing so, it offers cross-cutting insights that are obscured when one looks only at single issue or a single approach to choice. The book examines choice in its various forms: charter schools, home schooling, online schooling, voucher plans that allow students to use taxpayer funds to attend private schools, tuition tax credit plans that provide a public subsidy for private school tuition, and magnet schools and other forms of public school intra- and interdistrict choice. It brings together some of the top researchers in the field, presenting a comprehensive overview of the best current knowledge of these important policies. The questions addressed in Exploring the School Choice Universe are of most importance to researchers and policy makers. What do choice programs actually do? What forms do they take? Who participates, and why? What are the funding implications? What are the results of different forms of school choice on outcomes that matter, like student performance, segregation, and competition effects? Do they affect teachers’ working conditions? Do they drive innovation? The contents of this book offer reason to believe that choice policies can further some educational goals. But they also suggest many reasons for caution. If choice policies are to be evidence-based, a re-examination is in order. The information, insights and recommendations facilitate a more nuanced understanding of school choice and provide the basis for designing sensible school choice reforms that can pursue a range of desirable outcomes.

Janelle Scott // UC Berkeley

Becker, H. J., Nakagawa, K., & Corwin, R. (1997). Parental involvement contracts in California charter schools: Strategy for educational improvement or method of exclusion? Teachers College Record, 98(3), 512-536.

Many deregulated public charter schools in California and other states are emphasizing parent involvement in the process of reform. Some even seem to be working from a communitarian model, trying to build an integral school community in which parents play numerous roles in the ongoing events of the school and classroom day. In order to build this parent involvement, California charter schools are also experimenting with a variety of mechanisms for encouraging parent involvement, including having parents sign agreements or “contracts” promising a certain amount or type of involvement. But to what extent are the initiators of these charter schools using parent involvement and parent contracts to restrict enrollment to children whose parents demonstrate the desired commitments and willingness to meet school expectations? In order to explore this question, this article reports on (1) analyses of data from a survey of California’s charter schools and comparison schools in the same communities and (2) an examination of parent contracts in use at the charter schools. We find that charter schools do have greater levels of parent involvement, but that this involvement may be due to selectivity in the kinds of families participating in charter schools.

Bell, C. (2009). All choices created equal? The role of choice sets in the selection of schools. Peabody Journal of Education, 84(2), 191-208.

Reformers suggest that parental choice will improve equity by making it possible for parents to select better schools for their children. A key assumption behind this claim is that parents choose from a set of schools that range in quality. Data from this longitudinal interview study suggest this assumption may be false. In one Midwestern city, parents of different social class backgrounds did not consider schools of similar quality. The set of schools considered by parents, called the choice set, differed; though parents’ choice processes and reasoning were remarkably similar. These data suggest that in addition to the well-documented constraints of income, information, and transportation, the resources used to construct choice sets may further constrain the schools parents consider. These findings raise questions about the ability of current choice policies to deliver the equity outcomes reformers suggest.

Bell, C. A. (2007). Space and place: Urban parents’ gegraphical preferences for schools. The Urban Review, 39(4), 375-404.

Prior research documents the almost universal preference for schools that are “convenient”. Drawing on longitudinal interview data gathered from 36 urban parents, I argue parents’ preference for “convenient” schools is more complex than previously understood. Conceptions of geography used by policy makers do not adequately capture the ways in which parents think about geography. Instead of thinking about school as solely a location one must travel to, parents’ preferences for schools are informed by space and place-based notions of geography. Parents’ geographic preferences connect to larger, more deeply held ideas about parenting, family life, identity, child development, and one’s place in the larger stratified society. Further, these preferences do not exist in a vacuum. Parents’ geographic preferences have implications for the resources parents’ must activate in order to make certain schools possible. Geographic preferences also compete with other school preferences. This paper shows how notions of space and place shape the schools parents choose as well as the schools they are willing to consider. The study describes a fuller, more accurate portrayal of parents’ thinking. It also draws attention to the ways in which existing historical and social contexts influence parents’ understandings of choice policy.

Bettinger, E. (1999). The effect of charter schools on charter school students and public schools. National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Occasional Papers Series, Occasional Paper Number 4, 1-35.

This paper estimates the effect of charter schools on both students attending them and students at neighboring public schools. Using school-level data from Michigan’s standardized testing program, I compare changes in test scores between charter and public school students. I find that test scores of charter school students do not improve, and may actually decline, relative to those of public school students. The paper also exploits exogenous variation created by Michigan’s charter law to identify the effects of charter schools on public schools. The results suggest that charter schools have had no significant effect on test scores in neighboring public schools.

Bulkley, K. (2005). Losing voice? Educational management organizations and charter schools’ educational programs. Education and Urban Society, 37(2), 204-234.

Charter schools are one form of decentralizing public education by shifting power into the hands of school stakeholders by providing them with more “voice” in day-to-day decisions. However, the increasing involvement of educational management organizations (EMOs) as managers of charter schools raises newquestions about the influence of school stakeholders. This exploratory study examines the experiences of three very different EMOs and two schools operated by each company. Specifically, the author describes the role of each company in the development of the educational programs in the schools it manages. The three companies varied in the extent to which they limited school stakeholder “voice.” The analysis builds toward a greater understanding of the impact of EMOs on decentralization, including an exploration of the power of charter schools in the EMO-school relationship that examines how “exit” from the EMO-school relationship may provide power in a way that “voice” does not.

Cobb, C. D., & Glass, G. V. (1999). Ethnic segregation in Arizona charter schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 7(1), 1-40. Retrieved from

Among the criticisms of charter schools is their potential to further stratify schools along ethnic and class lines. This study addressed whether Arizona charter schools are more ethnically segregated than traditional public schools. In 1996-97, Arizona had nearly one in four of all charter schools in the United States. The analysis involved a series of comparisons between the ethnic compositions of adjacent charter and public schools in Arizona’s most populated region and its rural towns. This methodology differed from the approach of many evaluations of charter schools and ethnic stratification in that it incorporated the use of geographic maps to compare schools’ ethnic make-ups. The ethnic compositions of 55 urban and 57 rural charter schools were inspected relative to their traditional public school neighbors.

Green, P. C., & McCall, D. (1998). Are charter schools sufficiently public to receive public funds? An analysis of Council of Organizations about Parochiaid v. Governor. International Journal of Education Reform, 7(3), 232-242. Available from:

If a charter-school act permits too much freedom from state regulations, it may create private schools ineligible for state funding. In “Council of Organizations about Parochiaid v. Governor,” the Michigan courts ruled on levels of state control necessary for charter schools to be considered public. At least 13 states would fail the Michigan trial court’s test.

Posey-Maddox, L. (2014). When Middle-Class Parents Choose Urban Schools: Class, Race, and the Challenge of Equity in Public Education. University of Chicago Press.

In recent decades a growing number of middle-class parents have considered sending their children to—and often end up becoming active in—urban public schools. Their presence can bring long-needed material resources to such schools, but, as Linn Posey-Maddox shows in this study, it can also introduce new class and race tensions, and even exacerbate inequalities. Sensitively navigating the pros and cons of middle-class transformation, When Middle-Class Parents Choose Urban Schools asks whether it is possible for our urban public schools to have both financial security and equitable diversity.

Drawing on in-depth research at an urban elementary school, Posey-Maddox examines parents’ efforts to support the school through their outreach, marketing, and volunteerism. She shows that when middle-class parents engage in urban school communities, they can bring a host of positive benefits, including new educational opportunities and greater diversity. But their involvement can also unintentionally marginalize less-affluent parents and diminish low-income students’ access to the improving schools. In response, Posey-Maddox argues that school reform efforts, which usually equate improvement with rising test scores and increased enrollment, need to have more equity-focused policies in place to ensure that low-income families also benefit from—and participate in—school change.

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on charter click here.

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p.s. Not so fun fact: Did you know that the Federal dollars spent to expand charters schools 1995-2014= 3.3 billion dollars…


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