April 13, 2017

T. Jameson Brewer, (404) 941-4530, jameson.brewer@ung.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Report dismissive of charter school segregation and stratification, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 13, 2017) — A report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) compared differences in approaches and demographics between and among charter school models and traditional public schools. The report used three national data sets to capture the national universe of charter schools. Unfortunately, an academic review of the report released today finds that it fails to consider: (1) a large body of research on parent-decision-making; (2) research suggesting that charter schools are not as innovative as they claim; and (3) the purpose and aims of an equitable public education system.

The report, Differences by Design? Student Composition in Charter Schools with Different Academic Models, was reviewed by T. Jameson Brewer, University of North Georgia, and Christopher Lubienski, Indiana University, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Using enrollment demographics at different charter school models (e.g., art focused, no-excuses, single-sex, etc.), the report demonstrated that different demographic groups attend different types of charter schools. With regard to different categories of race and ethnicity, family income, and special education status, the report documents demographic sorting as an outcome of school choice.

The reviewers find that the report presents charter school de facto segregation as a benign byproduct of parental choice. In fact, the review finds that the original report actually acknowledged that this type of stratification was part and partial of a "properly" functioning charter sector - one in which parents get to choose the type of school their children attend.

According to the reviewers, the methodological decisions of the original report were not clear or fully justified. Additionally, the report failed to adequately describe how they classified special education students - not distinguishing between disabilities.

Regarding the report's use of research literature, Brewer and Lubienski, in their review, find that the report relies heavily on other reports from AEI and pro-charter advocacy organizations. Only two sources from the original report were from peer-reviewed journals.

Ultimately, the reviewers conclude: "While the authors and AEI may have conceived this report as a rationale for advancing charter schools, their data demonstrates that charter schools may be destructive of the common good."

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the original report on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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