New RAND study (pdf) about the demographics of charter schools, worth reading if you follow that debate. Based on data from CA and TX, the RAND team concludes that:
We find that black students in both states are more likely to move to charter schools and tend to move to charter schools with a higher percentage of black students, and those schools are more racially concentrated than the public schools they leave. We also find that students who move to charter schools are on average lower performing than other students at the public schools they leave and that this performance gap is largest for black students…
…In both states little evidence can be found that charter schools are systematically cream-skimming high-performing students, and indeed in Texas the opposite appears true.
There is a lot more including interesting demographic information on CA and TX which are not insignificant states because almost one in four charter school students are in them.
Probably won’t settle anything though because despite a general consensus that integrated schools are more desirable than segregated schools, a lot of disagreement about whether that desirability should trump a parent’s desire to get their child in a good public school regardless of its racial composition. Also, recall that during the halcyon days of the Catholic school – public school debate critics of the research about a “Catholic School Effect” would argue that there were intangible characteristics, that could be indicative of skimming, that made students choosing Catholic schools different than other students in ways that the research methods couldn’t pick up. Fair enough, but reverse skimming is an equally plausible scenario and could be the case here.
Incidentally, look for more work and more textured work like this as better data systems allow researchers to look more at students and less at schools and consequently drill down a lot more.