- A new study from the Center for American Progress finds traditional public schools in the District of Columbia are much more likely to take in new students who enroll in the middle of the school year, compared to charter schools of similar size, Chalkbeat reports.
- D.C. charter schools educate nearly half of the public school population and have similar rates of students who exit mid-year as traditional public schools, but there’s no incentive for charters to fill the vacancies with new transfer students.
- Because students who transfer schools mid-year often have lower test scores and may need extra support, researchers raise concerns about equity and an uneven playing field when comparing academic performance between the two sectors, the article says.
The Center for American Progress’ findings have implications for districts where there is a large charter school presence.
Higher academic achievement, along with greater freedom for innovation, is often promoted as one of the benefits of a charter school education. Previous studies of charter schools in Chicago and elsewhere have found that students at these schools perform better academically than their peers in traditional public schools — though research on student performance in the charter sector as a whole is certainly mixed.
Yet critics say this can happen when schools find loopholes around rules that don’t allow them to be selective in admissions — including not backfilling spots when students leave in the middle of the year.
Charter schools have also long come under scrutiny for perpetuating inequities in education, including school segregation. A 2016 Economic Policy Institute study on charter schools in urban areas, for example, found charter school expansion led to lower enrollment and less funding for traditional public schools. In many cases, districts had to reduce spending in ways that had the potential to hurt student performance.
Requiring schools to fill openings left by students who transfer out, or providing incentives for schools to do so, as this new report suggests, could be one way for policymakers to mitigate the issue moving forward.