Report: Charter Schools More Likely to Serve Alternative Education Students

By July 20, 2023 News

A new issue brief from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools highlights a little-known facet of the charter movement: Charter schools serve a disproportionately higher share of alternative education students, compared to other schools. While such students come from a range of backgrounds, they share a common and consistent risk factor: They face higher odds of dropping out of school than other students.

The issue brief, released in June, evaluated alternative education campuses (AECs) in 34 states in 2021-22.

Some topline findings:

  • Of the nearly 2,800 AEC campuses nationwide, 555, or 20%, are public charter schools.
  • Charter schools serve 7.2% of public school students nationwide, but enroll 42% of students in AECs.
  • In North Carolina, 11% of AEC students attend charter schools (see p. 29 in the Appendix). Overall, charter school students comprise around 9% of the state’s public school students.

Screenshot from: “Going the Extra Mile: An Overview of Charter School Alternative Education Campuses,” National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, June 9, 2023.

Key demographic factors and proficiency rates, according to the brief:

Most AEC students (95%) are enrolled in grades 9-12, 74% are students of color and 47% are Hispanic or Latino. Sixty-eight percent of charter school AEC students are economically disadvantaged. Despite the odds being stacked against many students, the average proficiency rates among charter school AEC students are slightly higher than those of their district school counterparts in both English language arts and math.

The brief also included 2020-21 graduation data from 10 states. In these states, graduation rates rose more rapidly in charter AECs (comparing four-, five-, and six-year cohort graduation rates). However, charter AEC graduation rates were slightly lower overall, compared to non-charter AECs. The brief suggests that “policies need to be broadened to include a wider range of information about student outcomes to understand the performance of schools like this.”

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Kristen Blair

Author Kristen Blair

Kristen Blair is the communications director for the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools.

More posts by Kristen Blair