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A Think Twice Review of:

Differences by Design? Student Composition in Charter Schools with Different Academic Models

Think Twice - Apr 13, 2017

Publisher/Think Tank - American Enterprise Institute

Author(s) - Nat Malkus And Jenn Hatfield

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. 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.

Reviewer(s) - T. Jameson Brewer, University of North Georgia; and Christopher Lubienski, Indiana University

An academic review of the report 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 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. 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.”