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We document patterns and trends in school segregation in North Carolina between 1998 and 2016, a period of rapid immigration in this racially diverse state. As in other states of the South, the period of court orders enforcing racial balance has given way not only to tacit acceptance of residentially based school segregation but also to policies that offer parents alternatives to traditional public schools. Most prominent among these alternatives in North Carolina are charter schools, which have expanded rapidly with the state’s blessing. Following the prevailing practice of social scientists, we measure segregation by the degree of imbalance across schools, using counties and metropolitan areas as basic geographical units. We differentiate students according to their racial/ethnic group and also to their family income. We take into account all students including those in private schools, charter schools and traditional public schools.
For the state as a whole, we find that white/nonwhite segregation increased over the period. Most of the increase was in urban areas. We also find that low-income students became more segregated from other students. Segregation measured either way increased sharply in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, which significantly changed its student assignment policy following a federal court order. Compared to metropolitan areas in other parts of the U.S., urban areas in the state have modest levels of segregation, because most districts are county-wide and thus large and diverse. We decompose metropolitan segregation, separating the portions due to private schools, charter schools, racial disparities between school districts, and racial disparities within districts. Charter schools and within-district disparities accounted for the increase in average segregation in metropolitan areas over the period. More generally, areas where school segregation increased the most tend to be large, growing, and marked by big increases in the share of students who are Hispanic.
Citation: Charles Clotfelter, Steven Hemelt, Helen Ladd, Mavzuna Turaeva (2018). School Segregation in The Era of Immigration and School Choice: North Carolina, 1998-2016. CALDER Working Paper No. 198-0618-1
This paper examines what parents value as they make choices among available charter schools, with primary attention to the racial mix of a school’s students. We estimate conditional logit models of the charter school choices made by all parents in North Carolina who switched their child from a traditional public school to a charter school in 2014/15. Our findings that parents care about the school’s racial mix of students and that such preferences differ by the race and income of the choosers highlight the pressures that lead charter schools to be racially imbalanced. Our models also include other factors that parents may value such as the distance to the charter, the school’s academic performance, the services provided by the charter, such as subsidized lunch and transportation, and the school’s mission and approach.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Charles Clotfelter, Mavzuna Turaeva (2018). Choosing Charter Schools in North Carolina: What Do Parents Value?. CALDER Working Paper No. 196-0618-1
Studies of the charter sector typically compare charters and traditional public schools at a point in time. These comparisons are potentially misleading because many charter-related reforms require time to generate results. We study quality dynamics among Texas charter schools from 2001-2011. School quality in the charter sector was initially highly variable and on average lower than traditional public schools. However, exits, improvement of existing charter schools, and expansion of higher-performing charter management organizations increased charter effectiveness relative to traditional public schools. We present evidence that reduced student mobility and an increased share of charters adhering to No Excuses- style curricula contribute to these improvements.
A defining characteristic of charter schools is that they introduce a strong market element into public education. In this paper, we examine the evolution of the charter school sector in North Carolina between 1999 and 2012 through the lens of a market model. We examine trends in the mix of students enrolled in charter schools, the racial imbalance of charter schools, the quality of the match between parental preferences in charter schools relative to the quality of match in traditional public schools, and the distribution of test score performance across charter schools relative those in traditional public schools serving similar students over time. Taken together, our findings imply that the charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Charles Clotfelter, John B. Holbein (2015). The Growing Segmentation of the Charter School Sector in North Carolina. CALDER Working Paper No. 133
This study examines the multi-faceted public school choice environment in the District of Columbia and the effects of alternative public schools on the achievement levels of students who exercise this type of school choice. The results indicate that students who attend out-of-boundary public schools and charter schools significantly outperform similar students who attend in-boundary public schools in both reading and math tests. We rely on instrumental variables framework to disentangle the underlying reasons behind this achievement gap and find that the observed differences are likely due to the positive effects of alternative public schools.
Citation: Austin Nichols, Umut Özek (2014). Public School Choice and Student Achievement in the District of Columbia. CALDER Working Paper No. 53
Since their inception in 1992, the number of charter schools has grown to more than 6,000 in 40 states, serving more than 2 million students. Various studies have examined charter schools’ impacts on test scores, and a few have begun to examine longer-term outcomes including graduation and college attendance. This paper is the first to estimate charter schools’ effects on student earnings, alongside effects on educational attainment. Using data from Chicago and Florida, we find evidence that charter high schools may have substantial positive effects on persistence in college as well as high-school graduation and college entry. In Florida, where we can link students to workforce data in adulthood, we also find evidence that charter high schools produce large positive effects on subsequent earnings.
Citation: Kevin Booker, Tim Sass, Brian Gill, Ron Zimmer (2014). Charter High Schools' Effect on Long-Term Attainment and Earnings. CALDER Working Paper No. 103
A critical element in the sustainability of any public policy is the fair treatment of ‘similar’ individuals. This paper introduces a new dimension of merit to evaluate public school assignment mechanisms based on this notion of horizontal equity. The findings reveal that all of the prominent assignment mechanisms discussed in the literature fail to satisfy this ‘equal treatment’ criterion. I also show that there exists no student-optimal stable mechanism that also satisfies equal treatment, illustrating the tradeoff between constrained efficiency and horizontal equity. These findings surface a serious cause for concern about the public school assignment procedures used in major school districts.
Citation: Umut Özek (2013). Equal Treatment as a Means of Evaluating Public School Assignment Mechanisms. CALDER Working Paper No. 99
Increasing parental choice has been a leading theme of recent education policy intended to enhance the academic achievement of low-performing students in the United States. These policies aim to “level the playing field” in access to high-quality education for disadvantaged students who cannot otherwise afford higher-quality schooling options. Public school choice programs in D.C. are successful; disadvantaged students are able to attend higher-performing schools than their neighborhood public schools, even with prolonged commutes. Overall, the findings provide evidence that the relatively advantaged students are taking advantage of public school choice programs. However, choice exacerbates student quality disparities between low- and high-poverty schools, casting some doubt on the benefits of such programs.
Citation: Umut Özek (2011). Public School Choice in the District of Columbia: A Descriptive Analysis. CALDER Working Paper No.
Voucher options like tuition tax credit-funded scholarship programs have become increasingly popular in recent years. This study examines the effects of private school competition on public school students’ test scores in the wake of Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC) program which offered scholarships to eligible low-income students to attend private schools. The authors examine whether students in schools exposed to a more competitive private school landscape saw greater improvements in their students’ test scores after the introduction of the program, than did students in schools that faced less competition. Students in public schools faced with increased private school competition showed greater gains in test scores than students in other public schools with the introduction of the program. These findings are not an artifact of pre-policy trends; the degree of competition from nearby private schools matters only after the announcement of the new program, which makes nearby private competitors more affordable for eligible students. The gains appear to be much more pronounced in the schools most at risk of losing students and in the schools that are on the margin of Title I funding.
Citation: David Figlio, Cassandra Hart (2010). Competitive Effects of Means-Tested School Vouchers. CALDER Working Paper No. 46
This paper analyzes households' response to the introduction of intra-district school choice and examines the impact of this choice on student test scores in Pinellas County Schools, one of the largest school districts in the United States. Households react strongly to the incentives created by such programs, leading to significant changes in the frequency of exercising alternative public schooling options, as well as changes in the composition of the "opt out" students. However, using proximity to public alternatives as an instrument for opting out of the assigned public school, the author finds no significant benefit of opting out on student achievement and that those who opt out of their default public schools often perform significantly worse on standardized tests than similar students who stay behind. The results further suggest that the short-run detrimental effects of opting out are stronger for students who opt out closer to the terminal grade of the school level. Yet the detrimental effects are weaker for disadvantaged students, who typically constitute the proposed target of school choice reforms.
Citation: Umut Özek (2009). The Effects of Open Enrollment on School Choice and Student Outcomes. CALDER Working Paper No. 26
This paper uses evidence from Durham, North Carolina to examine the impact of school choice on racial and class-based segregation across schools. The findings suggest that school choice increases segregation. Furthermore, the effects of choice on segregation by class are larger than the effects on segregation by race. These results are consistent with the theoretical argument—developed in sociology and economics literature—that the segregating choices of students from advantaged backgrounds are likely to outweigh any integrating choices by disadvantaged students.
Citation: Robert Bifulco, Helen Ladd, Stephen Ross (2008). Public School Choice and Integration: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina. CALDER Working Paper No. 14