Demographics, Enrollment & Performance in K-12 Schools

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  • For a link to the infographics in PDF file format, please click here:

    Guinn Center K-12 Infographics 9.27

    The Guinn Center recently presented at the Charter School Association of Nevada’s 6th Annual Charter School Conference in Las Vegas. We compared enrollment, demographics, and performance metrics across traditional—i.e., non-virtual—state-sponsored public charter schools, district-sponsored public charter schools, and district public schools, as well as virtual state-sponsored public charter schools and virtual district public schools. The following infographics showcase our preliminary findings.

  • Between the 2012-2013 and the 2016-2017 school years, overall enrollment across all schools, regardless of type, grew by just under seven percent. Across these school years, traditional state-sponsored public charter school enrollment increased by 227.1 percent. For the sake of comparison, enrollment grew by 2.2 percent at traditional district public schools. And over that same time period, there has been a 0.2 percentage-point decrease in students enrolled in full-time virtual education. If you break it out, per school year, less than one percent of all students have been enrolled in full-time virtual education programs sponsored by districts, and just over one percent of students has been enrolled in state-sponsored public charter schools (with a high of 1.4 percent in the 2012-2013 school year). In general, there has been a steady uptick in enrollment growth at traditional state-sponsored public charter schools; a similar pattern for traditional district public schools (with somewhat of a flattening-out in the most recent school year); mostly flatness in traditional district-sponsored public charter schools and virtual state-sponsored public charter schools; and a sharp increase in virtual district public schools between the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 school years, after which enrollment dropped off in each school year, though not to the low observed for the first year of data.

  • For the 2012-2013 through the 2016-2017 school years, traditional state-sponsored public charters have had at least a plurality of white students, though they were majority white through the 2015-2016 school year. District-sponsored public charter schools have seen increased growth in the Hispanic student population, with Hispanic, black, and white students comprising relatively equal proportions of their student bodies. The highest concentration of black students are in the district-sponsored public charters, though they are still in the minority. Traditional district public schools have relatively equivalent populations of white and Hispanic students, with the latter edging out the former by about 10 percentage points, depending on the year. Black, Asian, and Native American students tend to have a small presence at traditional district public schools. State-sponsored virtual public charter schools consistently are majority white, with Hispanic and black students fairly distant minorities. Virtual district public schools tend to follow the same pattern as their virtual charter counterparts. Students in Individualized Education Programs (IEP) attend traditional district public schools at a higher rate than other school types but only by a slight margin. English-Language Learners (ELL) and students who receive free or reduced lunch (FRL) are concentrated even more heavily in traditional district public schools.

  • Data on Nevada demographics largely follows nationwide patterns, such as the finding that virtual public charter schools have an overrepresentation of white students and an underrepresentation of Hispanic students. However, as of the 2016-2017 school year, the trend in the Silver State is moving in the opposite direction, with a 2.5-percentage-point increase in Hispanic students and nearly-commensurate 2.4-percentage-point decrease in white students (over the previous school year). This suggests that virtual public charter schools are becoming more inclusive in the Nevada. However, the relatively low proportions of English-Language Learners (ELL) at the virtual public charters may mean that the Hispanic population may continue to be underserved, given that instruction typically is in English. The state’s demographic profile also reinforces claims made elsewhere that virtual public charters are less likely to offer free or reduced lunches (FRL), though because of the online nature of the programs, certain data might not be collected to allow these schools to offer FRL. Lastly, if one objective is to reach students with disabilities who may not be suited for conventional schooling, then the slight underrepresentation of students in Individual Education Programs (IEP) at virtual charters (as earlier research has shown), when the opposite might be expected, may suggest room for growth.

  • A substantial body of research suggests that virtual public charter schools do not demonstrate levels of academic achievement on par with their traditional counterparts. How does Nevada compare?*

    Elementary Schools: Traditional state-sponsored public charter schools have the highest average star level, followed by district public schools (both traditional and virtual). District-sponsored public charter schools come in slightly lower, with star ratings relatively comparable to virtual state-sponsored public charter schools. That said, for the 2013-2014 school year, the gap in star rating between the highest (3.92 at traditional state-sponsored public charter schools) and the lowest (2.00 at virtual state-sponsored charter schools) is somewhat wide. Math proficiency is highest for traditional district public schools in 2012-2013 and lowest for state-sponsored virtual public charter schools in that year. The following year, traditional state-sponsored public charter schools outperformed all other school types for math proficiency. And they have the highest rates of reading proficiency in both years. Virtual state-sponsored public charter schools show considerably lower levels of math proficiency but relatively similar levels of reading proficiency as other school types.

    *Virtual district public schools are noted occasionally, but no conclusions or inferences should be drawn from the data, as the number of enrollees per year is too small to make such determinations.

  • Middle Schools: With respect to star rating, traditional state-sponsored public charter schools outperform all other school types. At the middle school level, both reading and math proficiency are generally low, regardless of school type. For math proficiency, traditional state-sponsored public charter schools perform far better than any other school type, but the percentages are still fairly low. District-sponsored public charter schools and virtual state-sponsored public charter schools are in the low 30 percentile for the first year and then tick up to the mid-30s by the second year. For reading proficiency, traditional state-sponsored public charter schools perform better than all other school classifications. State-sponsored virtual public charter schools show slightly higher levels of reading proficiency than traditional district public schools and substantially higher levels of reading proficiency than district-sponsored public charter schools.

  • High Schools: Virtual schools, regardless of type, have the lowest star ratings, though district-sponsored public charter schools fall under the average 3-star level, as well. Virtual schools of both types also graduate students at a much lower rate than other school types, with traditional district public schools outperforming the rest on this metric. However, when we look at proficiency measures, state-sponsored virtual public charter schools fare quite well. While traditional state-sponsored public charter schools have the highest levels of math proficiency, followed by traditional district public schools, virtual state-sponsored public charter schools are in the same range and show higher levels than district-sponsored public charter schools. For reading proficiency, traditional state-sponsored public charter schools perform at the highest level, with virtual state-sponsored public charter schools coming in at #2. Traditional district public schools are a close third.

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