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School Choice & Charters

New Report: Students Who Could Benefit Most Aren’t Enrolled in Charters

By Katie Ash — October 25, 2013 1 min read
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Those who are most likely to benefit from charter schools are the least likely to be enrolled in them, says a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative.

The study is the third in a series that have examined the impact of charter schools on student performance in Boston. This particular study served as an update to a 2009 paper about charter school lotteries in the area.

The second study in the series, which came out in May 2013, found that students who attend charter schools in Boston were more likely to have higher proficiency rates on state tests than students in Boston Public Schools, especially students of color and English-language learners.

However, the new study’s analysis found that charter schools in Boston served a small percentage of students with disabilities than Boston Public Schools, although that gap is shrinking. Charters also serve a smaller percentage of English-language learners compared to Boston Public Schools, and that gap continues to persist. Charters and regular Boston schools served similar percentages of students of color through the study period, which ran from 2002-12.

The study also found that about half of the middle school students who apply to charters are ultimately offered a seat, but not always right after the lottery is over. It takes several months for charter schools to determine exactly how many students will be attending the school since a significant number of students apply to more than one charter. This leads to charter schools extending offers to students throughout the summer. About 70 percent of high school students are eventually offered a seat in a charter school as well.

About two-thirds of middle school students who are offered a seat at a charter end up enrolling in one, while only 40 percent of high school students who are offered a seat at a charter school accept it. Researchers attribute these low take-up rates to the length of time students must wait to find out if they’ve been offered a seat, at which time they typically have made decisions to attend other schools.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.