New Education Competition Index Ranks Country’s Largest Districts

By December 5, 2023 News

A new Fordham Institute report out today ranks the nation’s 125 largest districts on how competitive they are regarding K-12 market share. The core question: How much are the country’s biggest districts actually competing for students–with home schools, private schools, or charter schools?

To answer this question, researchers David Griffith and Jeanette Luna evaluated enrollment data from Spring 2020 for students in grades 1-8. They compiled charter, private, and home school enrollment numbers in each district, and then divided this sum by a district’s student population. The quotient for each district, then, represents the “combined market share of all non-district alternatives.”

Researchers conclude, as numerous other studies have attested, that the K-12 market has changed considerably over the past decade. But many districts, they found, do not face considerable competition for students. Those that do generally feature a more robust charter school sector.

And numerous districts–including North Carolina’s five biggest–offer insufficient non-district options for students of color.

Charter school growth is driving enrollment shifts for districts, according to these findings from the report:

  • Nationally, the proportion of students in grades 1–8 who were not enrolled in a district-run school increased by about three percentage points between 2010 and 2020, from roughly 15 percent to approximately 18 percent.
  • Across and within the largest 125 districts in the country, the increase in charter school enrollment between 2010 and 2020 was responsible for most of the increase in competition during that same time period.

Charters are offering educational options for non-white students

Researchers found that charter schools are also fueling enrollment changes for non-white students. Among districts, 116 out of 125 “saw an increase in non-white students’ access to non-district alternatives in the last decade.”

This portion of the report’s table below includes North Carolina’s five largest districts. Researchers concluded: “In our view, the districts that appear towards the top of this list are ideal targets for charter school expansion.”

Source: “The Education Competition Index: Quantifying competitive pressure in America’s 125 largest school districts,” Fordham Institute, December 5, 2023.

Here are the percentages of non-White students NOT enrolled in a district school in North Carolina’s largest districts:

  • Forsyth County Schools: 10%
  • Cumberland County Schools: 12%
  • Wake County Schools: 14%
  • Guilford County Schools: 15%
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: 16%

Here are the overall percentages of students enrolled in non-district alternatives:

  • Forsyth County Schools: 15%
  • Cumberland County Schools: 16%
  • Wake County Schools: 22%
  • Guilford County Schools: 22%
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: 24%

Of North Carolina’s biggest districts, researchers note that they are “in dire need of more options for students of color.”

Learn more about the Education Competition Index here.