University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Is Little Rock Getting More Segregated?

In The View from the OEP on December 5, 2016 at 11:27 am

Group of Friends Smiling

Today we are excited to release the fifth policy brief regarding student integration in Little Rock public schools, where we answer the question about the racially and economically segregative impact of student moves from traditional public schools to charters.

Actually, because only 2% of students from the area TPSs switch to charters each year, we are not just interested in the students that switch from traditional public schools to charters.  We are also wondering about the impact of ALL students that choose to leave the Little Rock metro area traditional public school system (Little Rock School District, North Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District). This includes students who leave for other traditional public schools (about 6% of students annually), or for other non-public educational options such as homeschooling or private school (about 7% of students annually).

Our question was what is the segregative impact of the 15% of students leaving the Little Rock metro area traditional public schools each year?  Are the traditional public schools becoming more racially or economically  segregated as a result of students leaving?

So what did we find?

Overall, when students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area, their exit makes the school more integrated.

  • 84% of moves made by black or white students resulted in a racially integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.
  • 79% of student moves resulted in an economically integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.

Wow. But what about just those kids leaving TPSs for charters?   Are those resulting in more segregated traditional schools?

No. When students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area to attend charters in the area, their exit still makes the school more integrated.

  • 83% of black or white student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in a racially integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.
  • 78% of economically disadvantaged student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in an economically integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.

Wow. But what about just those kids leaving Little Rock School District for charters?   Are those resulting in more segregated traditional schools?

Nope. When students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock School District to attend charters in the area, their exit makes the school more integrated.

  • 89% of black or white student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in a racially integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.
  • 78% of economically disadvantaged student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in an economically integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.

Wow! So what does that mean?

This analysis shows that, currently, student transfers out of traditional schools are  improving the level of racial and economic integration in the Little Rock metro area public school system. How can this be?

When we think about increasing integration, we picture students entering a school with students who are racially or demographically different from themselves.  What we found in this analysis, however, is that integration is occurring because students are leaving traditional public schools where the majority of students are ‘like them’; white students are leaving schools with above average percentages of white students, and black students are leaving schools with above average percentages of black students. The same pattern is present for economic differences in enrollment; students eligible for FRL are leaving schools with higher concentrations of poverty, while Non-FRL students are leaving schools with lower concentrations of poverty.  When the students leave, therefore, their schools look less ‘like them’ and become more racially and economically integrated.

Why are students going to traditional public schools with so many students that are demographically similar to themselves? Geographic segregation can result in attendance zones being racially and economically segregated.  We see that the majority of schools in LRSD have over 80% of students eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, but that there are three schools with fewer than 30% of students on FRL.  The racial breakdowns are similar, with the majority of schools enrolling over 80% minority students, but the three schools with the low FRL enrollment also have the lowest minority enrollment.

While we are glad to see that student transfers out of traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area are not leading to increased segregation in the schools they exit, we are concerned about the disparities present in traditional public schools. The integrative effects of students leaving traditional public schools result from the wide racial and even wider economic disparities between traditional public schools.

We feel the results of these analyses should be a catalyst to focus not on perceived (but factually incorrect) segregative impacts of LR area charter schools.  Many students and their parents (15% annually) are making different education choices than LR Metro TPSs.  Some are leaving the public school system altogether, others are choosing to attend other traditional public schools, and some are enrolling in charters. We need to respect parents’ choices for their students and focus on quality educational experiences for students in our classrooms.

Integration isn’t just about numbers, but about students building authentic relationships with peers from different backgrounds, and experiencing meaningful educational experiences together. We need to continue to track enrollment trends in the Little Rock area, but we need to ensure we are working together to support high quality education for all students.


How did you figure this out?

Here we are going to give some context to our analysis, but if you are really interested please read the policy brief or the (even more detailed) Arkansas Education Report.

First, we defined what we meant by segregated. What ‘should’ the racial demographics of schools be?  Is the standard an equally balanced 50% black students and 50% white students? Nationally, 73% of the population is white and 13% is black, but in Arkansas 80% are white and 16% are black.  When we just examine students enrolled in Arkansas’ public schools, however, there is a marked difference in racial representation: in 2015-16,  62% of students are white and 21% are black. But we aren’t interested in all of Arkansas, because we are only talking about school in Pulaski County.  Here the difference is more significant: 59% of the population in Pulaski County is white and 36% is black, but in the public school population, only 29% of the population is white while 56% is black. We decided to use a 10 percentage point window around the annual black, white and economically disadvantaged percentages for all students enrolled in the public school system in the Little Rock metro area as our definition of integrated. Schools with greater or lesser representation were identified as segregated.

Second, we considered the demographics of each student that exits a traditional public school to determine the impact of the move on the school.  The combination of the student demographics and the racial or economic percentages of students enrolled at the school can result in the move being integrative, segregative or neutral.

  • If a black student exits a school with above average black enrollment, then the black enrollment of the school decreases and the student’s move makes the school slightly more like the average.  In this case we label the move racially integrative.
  • If, however, a white student exited a school with above average black enrollment, then the black enrollment of the school increases and the move makes the school slightly less like the average. In this case we label the move racially segregative.
  • If either a black or a white student exited a school with enrollment within ten percentage points of the average black enrollment in the Little Rock Metro Area, then the move is considered racially neutral.

We repeated this procedure for students relative to their Free/ Reduced Lunch status (a proxy for poverty) and the percentage of students at the school who were eligible for FRL.

Third, we had to identify the samples. We examined all moves out of Little Rock metro Area  TPSs (Little Rock School District, North Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District) by race (black/white) and Free/Reduced Lunch status as a proxy measure of low socio-economic status.  We repeated the analysis for only those students from Little Rock School District. We used student-level data to examine annual moves from 2008-09 to 2014-15.

For more information about our data, our methodology and our results please read the full Arkansas Education Report.

Just the Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area Part 4 Current Integration in LR

In The View from the OEP on November 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

As part of our ongoing examination of integration in the Little Rock Area public school system, we are pleased to announce the fourth brief in our series which examines the current state of integration. In this brief, we again explore questions of race and poverty and compare across traditional public school (TPS) and public charter school sectors.

We wondered:

  • What percentage of students go to racially hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are the same race?
  • What percentage of students go to socioeconomically hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch?
  • What percentage of students attend racially integrated schools?
  • What percentage of students attend socioeconomically integrated schools?

To answer these questions, we used school demographic data from 2008-09 to 2014-15.

As shown in the table below, in 2014-15, only 4 TPSs and 1 charter school in the Little Rock Metro Area (LRMA) were identified as racially hyper-segregated. Little Rock Metro Area includes traditional public schools in LRSD, NLRSD and PCSSD as well as all public charter schools in the area.

 Number of Schools in the Little Rock Metro Area by Percent Black Enrollment, 2014-15 by Sector.pb_1415

What percentage of students go to racially hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are the same race? Less than 7%, but varies slightly by sector.

Over the seven years examined,  6% of charter students, 5% of LRMA TPS students, and 7% of LRSD students attended schools where 90% or more of students are of the same race.

 

 

What percentage of students go to socioeconomically hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are the eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch? About 20% overall, but varies significantly by sector.

Over the seven years examined, 3% of charter students, 18% of LRMA TPS students, and 22% of LRSD students attended schools where 90% or more of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch.

 

 

What percentage of students go to racially integrated schools where the student racial demographics are similar to the Little Rock Metro Area public school population as a whole?  About 40% overall, and varies slightly by sector and black or white enrollment.

Over the seven years examined, 50% of charter students, 47% of LRMA TPS students, and 42% of LRSD students attended schools where the percentage of black students enrolled was similar to the LRMA average overall (+/- 15 percentage points).  When white integration is examined, however, there are differences by sector:  60% of charter students, 37% of LRMA TPS students, and 27% of LRSD students attended schools where the percentage of white students enrolled was similar to the LRMA average overall (+/- 15 percentage points).

 

 

What percentage of students go to socioeconomically integrated schools where the student FRL percentage is similar to the Little Rock Metro Area public school population as a whole?  Fewer than 37% overall, and varies significantly by sector.

Over the seven years examined, 14% of charter students, 37% of LRMA TPS students, and 25% of LRSD students attended schools where the percentage of FRL students enrolled was similar to the LRMA average overall (+/- 15 percentage points).

Perhaps in part due to the smaller number of schools in the charter group, charters evidenced greater differences from the area average in the percent black students. Charters also evidenced greater differences from the area average in the percent FRL students. The area average is largely driven by the traditional public schools and we have seen in previous briefs how charters enroll a more economically advantaged population.  It is important to remember that like traditional public schools, charter schools cannot select students based on demographic characteristices.  Unlike traditional schools, charter students do not have to live within certain geographic boundaries.

 

Now that we have an understanding of the current state of racial and socioeconomic integration in Little Rock Area Public Schools, we can answer the question of whether student moves are helping to integrate or segregate the Little Rock Metro Area school system. Stay tuned to find out the results of  whether the student moves between traditional and charter schools helped the public schools look more or less like the overall demographics of the Little Rock Metro Area.

Just The Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area Part 3 Where do students move?

In The View from the OEP on November 10, 2016 at 9:57 am

As part of our ongoing examination of student enrollment patterns in the Little Rock Area, we are pleased to announce the third brief in our series which examines characteristics of schools that students are switching to.  In this brief, we again explore questions of race, poverty, and achievement, but from the school level.  We wondered:

  • Are students more likely to transfer to schools with higher concentrations of same-race students?
  • Do students switch to schools with higher overall academic performance?
  • Are students eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL) more likely to transfer to schools with higher concentrations of FRL eligible students?

To answer these questions, we used student-level data from 2008-09 to 2014-15 to examine differences in the schools that students were exiting and entering.  As in other analyses, we examine students switching between traditional public schools in Little Rock Schools District (LRSD) and public charter schools in the Little Rock area and vice versa.

Are students moving into schools with more students of their race? Not consistently

We found no consistent pattern of differences in the racial composition between the LRSD traditional schools and the charters students moved into.  In some years, students transferred into schools that had a higher percentage of students who were the same race as the student, but in other years that wasn’t the case.  Even in years where differences were present, they were relatively small.  For example, in 2015, black students leaving LRSD for charters entered schools with 9% fewer black students, and black students leaving charters for LRSD entered schools with 1% more black students. White students leaving LRSD for charters entered schools with 8% more white students, and white students leaving charters for LRSD entered schools with 4% fewer white students.

Are students moving into higher performing schools?  No, the schools are about the same.

There is also no pattern of differences in the academic performance of the LRSD schools and the charters that students transferred between during this time.  Students who left charters for LRSD also moved to schools with similar academic performance.

Are students moving into schools with fewer FRL students?  Students moving from LRSD to charters move to schools with fewer FRL students, while students moving from charters to LRSD move to schools with more.

Students from LRSD entering charters consistently moved into schools serving a substantially more economically advantaged population than the schools that they exited. Conversely, students exiting area charters and entering LRSD moved into schools serving a substantially less economically advantaged student body. We also saw this in our first brief, examining enrollment patterns between charters and traditional public schools. In the 2014-15 school year, for example, 47% of charter students received free or reduced price lunch, while 75% of LRSD students received free or reduced price lunch.

We also completed this analysis for the Little Rock Metro Area as a whole (LRSD, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School District), and you can find those results in the full brief.  While our policy briefs in this series have identified enrollment trends in Little Rock Area schools, disproportionalities in students who switch between sectors, and where switchers go when they transfer schools, we have not yet addressed the question of whether student moves are helping to integrate or segregate the Little Rock Metro Area school system. Stay tuned to find out the results of  whether these student moves helped the schools look more or less like the overall demographics of the Little Rock Metro Area.