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Notice charter school enrollment exploded in Texas after 1996. And, this graph does not include another group of thousands more Texas students enrolled in special charter school districts. Overall, I estimate that charter school enrollment in Texas now amounts to around three percent of the entire school population in the Lone Star State.
Because the rise in charter enrollment was so dramatic, I was curious about what might have happened to Texas on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) after charters were introduced. Was there any indication that charters impeded or helped? I focused on eighth grade math because this is one of Kentucky’s major educational stumbling blocks, especially for our minority students.
What I found is remarkable.
This graph shows how blacks in Texas and Kentucky (which still has no charter schools) did on the federal NAEP tests. Keep in mind that Texas’ charter school growth began after the 1996 NAEP was administered.
Back in 1990 when the first state level NAEP math test was conducted, Texas’ blacks scored 234 while our black kids scored 240. Note that Texas’ blacks then essentially caught up to our kids and stayed even with them until a couple of years after the Texas charter movement started. After the year 2000, however, Texas’ blacks left our’s in the dust. As of the new results for 2009, which were just released a short time ago, Texas’ blacks scored a dramatic 14 NAEP Scale Score points higher than our kids.
Basically, when it comes to the only racial minority present in Kentucky in significant numbers, KERA got shellacked by Texas’ education system.
Also, to reiterate, note that the difference in performance began to appear several years after Texas started its charter program.
Unfortunately, the NAEP data can’t tell us how blacks in charter schools in Texas performed over time. The NAEP samples from the charter schools were too small to provide statistically reliable information.
All we can tell from the NAEP is that the overall performance for all students in charters in Texas lagged the statewide average for all Texas students in 2005, 2007 and 2009 NAEP assessments but that Texas’ charters reduced that lag by two points in that time.
However, there is no way to know how the students in Texas charters would have scored had they remained in the regular school system. Likewise, there is no way to know if the nine point improvement in performance of Texas’ blacks who attended non-charter schools in 2005 to 2009 would be reduced if those schools had not faced competition from charter schools.
What we do know is that something dramatic is happening for blacks in Texas, something far better than Kentucky has offered its blacks. And, we do know that the timing of the increase in charter school enrollment in Texas fits nicely with the possibility that charter schools have played a role, maybe a major role, in making this happen.