University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Just the Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area

In The View from the OEP on October 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm

A lot of people have a lot to say about the impact of public charter school expansion on the traditional public schools in the Little Rock area.  Here at OEP, we have been working to identify the concerns, gather the data, and determine the facts surrounding this issue.  Even if you don’t live in Little Rock, the changing context of public education is important for all of us to consider.

We identified four key questions that we felt we could answer:

  1. How many students are enrolled in schools in Little Rock and the surrounding metro area and what do they ‘look like’? Is it changing over time? 
  2. How many students are moving between the traditional public and the public charters and what do they ‘look like’? Are certain groups more likely to move?
  3. When students move between the traditional public and public charter school in the Little Rock area- do they move to schools with students who are more ‘like them’ demographically and academically?
  4. What impact does student movement have on the school left behind and the system as a whole?  Are student moves leading to increased racial or socio-economic segregation within the public school system?

Today, we are pleased to release our first policy brief in the series: Demographic Trends in Enrollment. This brief addresses the first, and foundational, question,”How many students are enrolled in schools in Little Rock and the surrounding metro area and what do they ‘look like’?  Is it changing over time?”

A Little History…

Today’s brief begins by presenting overall enrollment trends since 1987 for traditional public, public charter and private schools in the Little Rock area, to provide a long-term perspective on K-12 education sectors in the area. Remember that charter schools are public schools that are free for students to attend, just like traditional schools, but that students do not have to live within any certain geographic area to attend.  Since students enrolled in charters can come from anywhere in the Little Rock area, we examine enrollment and demographics of the entire Little Rock Metro Area as well as the Little Rock School District itself.

enroll

Key findings from the trends shown in Figure 1:

  • Enrollment in traditional public schools in the Little Rock Metro Area (LRSD, NLRSD, PCCSD) has declined steadily over time, resulting in an overall decrease of 18% since 1987.
  • Little Rock School District itself has also seen a smaller decline in enrollment, and has declined only 4% since the first charter school opened in the area in 2001.
  • Enrollment in private schools has remained fairly constant since 1987.
  • Enrollment in public charter schools has increased continuously since the first school opened in 2001, and charters currently enroll about 10% of public school students in the LR Metro Area.

More Recent History

We next focus on demographic changes in enrollment since 2008-09 for Little Rock School District as well as for the traditional public and public charter schools in the Little Rock Metro Area, which includes LRSD, North Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District.

Some key findings are:

  • Traditional Public schools in the LR Metro Area enroll a higher percentage of black students than charters (57% to 46% in 2014-15), but black enrollment in traditional schools has declined, while black enrollment at charters has increased.
  • The percentage of white students has declined across both traditional public and public charter school sectors since 2008-09.
  • An increasing percentage of public school students in the Little Rock are Hispanic, reaching 10% in both LR Metro traditional public schools and public charters.
  • Traditional Public schools in the LR Metro Area enroll a higher percentage of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure of student poverty) than public charters (69% to 46% in 2014-15), and FRL enrollment is increasing in both traditional and charter schools.
  • A small but increasing percentage (11% in LRSD and 3% in area charters in 2014-15, ) of public school students in the Little Rock area are identified as English Language Learners.
  • About 11 % of the students in Little Rock’s traditional public schools and 7% of students in the area’s public charter schools were identified as special education students in 2014-15.

 

We hope you will read the brief and we look forward to releasing the next one that asks

How many students are moving between the traditional public and the public charters and what do they ‘look like’? Are certain groups more likely to move?

We were very surprised at the findings from this one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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