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  • True or False? Americas Charter Schools Skim the Cream from the Top
    Authors:
    Year: 2011

  • Abstract:
    Few topics in education inspire as much debate as charter schools, which first appeared on the educational landscape in 1992. One area of controversy is the effect of charter schools on the sorting of students across the system of public education as a whole. Critics of charter schools worry that they might “skim the cream,” enrolling high-ability students at the expense of lower achievers left in traditional public schools; and that charter schools may further stratify an already racially stratified system. These issues are examined empirically, using student level data from seven locations across the country. The researchers follow students moving between traditional public schools and charter schools to examine the effect charter schools have on the distribution of students both by race/ethnicity and by ability. They do not find that charter schools are systematically skimming high achieving students or dramatically affecting the racial mix of schools.

    This paper is published in a book from the Harvard Education Press.
    Download the chapter’s appendix above.


The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.