northwest Arkansas, charter schools, demographics, standardized tests
Charter schools in northwest Arkansas are frequently praised for their academic performance and criticized for their lack of diversity. Using publicly available anonymized data from the Arkansas Department of Education, we use 11 years of enrollment trends in northwest Arkansas public schools, considering student demographic characteristics, free- or reduced-price lunch status, limited English proficiency status, special education status, and performance on state standardized reading and math assessments, to analyze enrollment trends in northwest Arkansas traditional public schools and charter schools, as well as the characteristics of students who voluntarily switch sectors. We find that northwest Arkansas charter schools are not representative of the demographic characteristics of the region in terms of demographics, FRL status, LEP status, and SPED status, though these schools have grown in diversity as they have increased enrollments. Students who exit NWA district schools for NWA charter schools tend to be above both the state and their respective school averages in terms of standardized test performance. Students who exit NWA charter schools tend to be above the state average, but perform similarly to their peers in terms of standardized test performance.
Lee, M. H., & McKenzie, S. C. (2020). Charter Schools in Northwest Arkansas: Patterns in Enrollment and Characteristics of Student Movers. Arkansas Education Reports. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/oepreport/70