University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

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.

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