University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Just the Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area Part 2 Student Movers

In The View from the OEP on November 2, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Do you ever wonder how many students and which students move from traditional public schools to public charter schools?  A lot of the controversy surrounding the expansion of public charter schools in the Little Rock area stems from the belief that charters are enrolling higher performing students and leaving a greater density of struggling students to be served in the traditional public schools.

Here at OEP, we like to put these questions to the data to get the facts. We are pleased to announce the second brief in our series about integration in the Little Rock area which examines the demographics of students who choose to switch between traditional public schools and charters.

How many students leave LRSD for other schools?

We examined student-level data to identify students who were enrolled in LRSD, and then examined where they enrolled the following year (excluding students who had graduated or were entering kindergarten in the second year). Between the 2013-14 school year and the 2014-15 school year, 85% of the students who had been enrolled in LRSD continued to enroll in LRSD.  Of the 15% that left LRSD, the smallest percentage (2%) switched to area charters. Over three times as many (6%) went to other traditional public schools outside of Pulaski county, with 3% moving to NLRSD or PCSSD and 3% moving to other public schools throughout Arkansas. The largest share of movers, 7%, left the public school system entirely.

The most surprising fact to us was the finding that, of those students leaving LRSD each year, a small fraction of those are leaving for charter schools. While much of the debate surrounds students exiting for charters, the fact is that far more students leave LRSD for other traditional public schools. We were also surprised that such a large percentage of LRSD students were leaving Arkansas’ public school system entirely.  These students are most likely either moving out-of-state, attending private school, or homeschooling. We examined student moves for each pair of years from 2008-09 to 2014-15, and the pattern is very consistent.

Little Rock School District Student Enrollment Decisions, 2013-14 to 2014-15

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What are the characteristics of students who leave LRSD?

We compared the demographics of the ‘movers’ to the demographics of LRSD as a whole to determine if certain types of students were more likely to make different enrollment decisions. We also examined the academic performance of students and compared it to the average performance of the school that they exited to get a better sense of if they were high performing compared to their peers (if you are a nerd like us, you can get more information about our methodology in the policy brief and the associated Arkansas Education Report).

To Charters?  (~2% annually)

Representative percentages of Black and white students, somewhat fewer FRL. Students were average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 64% of the students who transferred to area charters were black.  Although there was some variation throughout the years, black students were nearly equally represented in the students transferring to charters as they were in the LRSD population. White students were also equally represented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and 19% of the transfers to charters.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were slightly underrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD to area charters; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and only 61% of the students who transferred to area charters were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD for charters were performing just slightly above the students at the school that they exited (+0.03 standard deviations).

To NLRSD and PCCSD?  (~3% annually)

Greater percentages of Black and FRL students, and a smaller percentage of white students. Students were below average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 80% of the students who transferred to North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School districts were black.  Black students were consistently overrepresented in the students transferring to these nearby districts as they were in the LRSD population. White students were somewhat underrepresented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and only 15% of the transfers to NLRSD and PCSSD.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were somewhat overrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD to NLRSD and PCSSD; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and 75% of the students who transferred to NLRSD and PCSSD were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD for these nearby districts were performing below the students at the school that they exited (-0.20 standard deviations).

To other Arkansas public?  (~3% annually)

Smaller percentage of Black students, and a similar percentage of white students. Greater percentage of FRL students. Students were average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 62% of the students who transferred to other public schools in Arkansas (excluding NLRSD and PCSSD) districts were black.  White students were equally represented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and 21% of the transfers to other public schools in Arkansas.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were  overrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD to other public schools in Arkansas; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and 77% of the students who transferred to other public schools in Arkansas were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD for other public schools in Arkansas were performing at the same level as the students at the school that they exited (+0.01 standard deviations).

To out of the public system?  (~6% annually) 

Smaller percentage of Black students, and a larger percentage of white students. Slightly smaller percentage of FRL students. Students were average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 59% of the students who left the Arkansas public school system were black.  White students were somewhat overrepresented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and 27% of the transfers who left the Arkansas public school system.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were  also somewhat underrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD and left the Arkansas public school system; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and 64% of the students who left the Arkansas public school system were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD and then left the Arkansas public school system Arkansas were performing at the same level as the students at the school that they exited (+0.03 standard deviations).

Wait- WHAT?

We know, right?  There is no pattern of demographic or academic disparities in the students leaving LRSD for area charters.  In fact, the students transferring to charters are more ‘like’ LRSD than those leaving for other public districts or leaving the system entirely.

If you want to find out about patterns of students exiting the Little Rock Metro area schools districts (LRSD, NLRSD and PCSSD) or students leaving area charters, please read the policy brief or full report.

Stay tuned!

We now know about students enrolled in Little Rock and the surrounding metro area, and how many students are moving between the traditional public and the public charters and what do they ‘look like’?

But what we don’t yet know is about the schools that students move INTO.  Stay tuned for the next brief in the series to learn if students moving between the traditional public and public charter schools in the Little Rock area move to schools with students who are more ‘like them’ demographically and academically?

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