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Charter Schools and Minority Access to Quality Education

John Logan, Julia Burdick-Will, and Elisabeta Minca

May 2014, English

John R. Logan, Julia Burdick-Will, and Elisabeta Minca contribute a complementary analysis of charter schools across the United States. Their sample included only districts with at least one non-charter and one charter school. They used fourth-grade test scores and other data about public elementary schools from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to examine three questions:

  1. Can one characterize the various types of charter schools in the United States?
  2. What impact do charter schools have on segregation?
  3. Do test scores in charter or non-charter schools indicate a more favorable geography of opportunity for children of different racial and ethnic groups?

The authors used exploratory latent class analysis to divide the charter schools into seven groups, which vary markedly. One group, which includes the most districts, schools, and students, is highly urban, has the highest percentage of Hispanic students, and has a large share of black and Asian students. This group contrasts with two other groups, one of which includes predominantly suburban schools with a majority of white students and a small percentage of low-income students. The authors’ examination of the impact of charters on segregation shows that black students appear to attend more racially isolated schools, but the quantitative impact of this effect on overall district segregation is small. Finally, the authors report surprising results regarding their last question about test scores. Among low-poverty schools, non-charters have higher test scores than charters, but among high-poverty schools, charters have higher test scores. Given that black and Hispanic students are disproportionately located in high-poverty schools, it appears that moving to charter schools may offer them a superior educational climate.

This paper was presented at the Lincoln Institute’s annual Land Policy Conference in 2013 and is Chapter 10 of the book Education, Land, and Location.


Economic Development, Inequality, Poverty, Public Policy, Segregation, Suburban, Urban