Category

Research

How the pandemic is impacting K-12 enrollment

By COVID-19, Research

It’s obvious the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped K-12 enrollment. But how? Emerging data show impacts for North Carolina, and in some surprising ways.

A new brief from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC), by Sarah Crittenden Fuller and Kevin Bastian, shows traditional public schools have been hardest-hit. Other sectors, including charter schools and home schools, experienced growth between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020. Some key findings:

  • Traditional public school enrollment dropped by 2.5%, or around 35,000 students.
  • Charter school enrollment increased by 9%, or almost 10,000 students.
  • Home school enrollment grew by nearly 19,000 students.

Enrollment declines were highest in kindergarten. Urban school districts lost more students, as did areas with more affluent and white students. Schools with higher report card grades also experienced larger enrollment declines.

Here’s a deeper dive from the EPIC authors, about charters specifically:

For existing charter schools and grades, enrollment changes were relatively constant (between 2.5 and 3.3 percent) for the previous school years but increased to 4.8 percent for 2020–21. These data reveal that increases in charter school enrollment are due to both increased enrollment in existing charter schools/grades and the opening of new charter schools.

Findings on charter enrollments affirm data just out from the state’s draft annual charter school report. That report shows charter enrollment increased from 117,000 students in 2019-20 to over 126,000 students in 2020-21. Charters experienced enrollment growth at every grade level. An additional 76,000 students are on charter waitlists.

Interested in percent enrollment changes over time? This screenshot from the EPIC report captures shifts by K-12 sector:

Read an EdNC perspective from the EPIC report authors here.

More school choice, including charters, is linked with better performance

By News, Research

States with abundant, accessible school choice programs boast higher student performance. That’s the key finding of a new University of Arkansas study from researchers Patrick Wolf, Jay Greene, Matthew Ladner, and James Paul.

Specifically, the study evaluated states’ levels of education freedom, along with student performance on NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP tests students in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.

The report authors write:

We find that higher levels of education freedom are significantly associated with higher NAEP achievement levels and higher NAEP achievement gains in all our statistical models.

To measure choice, researchers evaluated private, charter, homeschool, and public school choice programs in each of the 50 states. For instance, they looked at the proportion of all K-12 students involved in each kind of program. They also considered states’ charter and homeschool laws.

Then, they created a 2021 Education Freedom Index, building on an earlier index created in 2000. Compared to other states, North Carolina ranked 38th in education freedom in 2000 and 31st in 2021.

In overall accessibility of charter schools, NC ranked 20th. Here’s a screenshot–but see page 11 of the report for the full ranking.

 

The authors conclude:

The evidence gathered here indicates that increased family options in K-12 education can be useful in spurring broad improvements in student learning along with being desirable in their own right.

Read NC Senate Leader Phil Berger’s release about the study here.

New research shows charters positively impact district funds

By Research

Charter opponents often claim that public charter schools “drain” funds from traditional district schools. But is this really true?

A new report out today from the Fordham Institute, Robbers or Victims? Charter Schools and District Finances, provides real answers. It serves as a powerful–and evidence-based–rebuttal of opponents’ claims. Charters generally do not drain funds from districts, according to report author Mark Weber of New Jersey Policy Perspective. In fact, in quite a few states, the local districts in which charters are situated actually benefit.

Here’s the big finding, according to Fordham:

“In most states, charter schools are boosting host districts’ total revenue and spending per pupil.”

The study, which evaluated 17 years of data (between 2000 and 2017), assessed 21 states. In 15 of these states, including North Carolina, “A greater independent charter market share was associated with a statistically significant increase in host districts’ total revenue per student.”

See a key graphic from the report here:

Read more here.