Is There Empirical Evidence That Charter Schools “Push Out” Low-Performing Students?

Issue/Topic: Choice of Schools--Charter Schools
Author(s): Zimmer, Ron; Guarino, Cassandra
Publication: Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis
Published On: 9/4/2013

As publicly funded schools of choice, charter schools are expected to serve all types of students; however, there is concern that because charter schools lack incentive to serve low-achieving students, they not only lure the best students away from traditional public schools, but "push out" the lowest achieving students.

To examine exit patterns of low-performing students in all charter and traditional public schools in a large urban school district to determine whether the patterns are consistent with the claim that charter schools are pushing out low-performing students

  • Though the study was unable to definitively assess why students transfer out of a particular school, it was able to examine the patterns in the data to determine if they were consistent with the notion that low-performing students are being "pushed out."

  • The study's findings suggest that low-performing students are neither more nor less likely to transfer out of charter schools than out of traditional public schools in the studied district. There is no evidence of "push out."

Policy Implications/Recommendations:
  • Additional research in other districts or states is needed to determine more definitively whether charter schools are "pushing out" low-performing students.

Full text is available from: http://epa.sagepub.com/content/35/4/461.

Research Design:
Formal regression model, including sensitivity analyses

Students attending school in an anonymous, large urban school district containing a large number of charter schools.

Year data is from:


Data Collection and Analysis:
Student-level data was tracked in an anonymous, large school district with a high concentration of low-income students, nearly 80% of whom qualified for free and reduced lunch. To track students exiting charter schools and traditional public schools, data on race/ethnicity, gender, special needs, LEP, test scores, school of attendance, and grade enrolled for each school year from 2000-01 through 2006-07 were collected.


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