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Table 1 compares, over time, the characteristics of students in charter schools with those in traditional public schools.6 The trends in the racial mix of students tell a clear story. In the early years, black students were substantially overrepresented and white students were underrepresented in the charter schools relative to traditional public school enrollments. Over time, however, that pattern changed. The white share of charter school students increased from 58.6 percent to 62.2 percent over the full period, while their share of traditional public school students declined, from 64.1 percent to 53.0 percent. Thus, by 2012, white students were significantly overrepresented in the charter school sector. During this same period, Hispanic students increased from 0.8 percent of charter students to 5.5 percent in 2012, still well below their 13.5 percent share of traditional public school students. Combining these two minority groups, we find that, as of 2012, charter schools served a disproportionately small number of minority students; black and Hispanic students accounted for 31.8 percent of the charter school students in this grade range, which was well below their 39.2 percent share of traditional public school students.7

Table 1. 
Descriptive Statistics: Charter versus Traditional Public Schools (TPS) (Grades 4—8)
199820052012
CharterTPSCharterTPSCharterTPS
Number of students 2,232 474,552 11,378 529,166 20,020 533,415 
Ethnicity (% students)       
Black 35.7 29.6 32.6 29.8 26.3 25.7 
Hispanic 0.8 2.7 2.9 7.5 5.5 13.5 
White 58.6 64.1 59.2 56.8 62.2 53.0 
Other 4.8 3.7 5.3 5.9 6.0 7.8 
Parent education (% students)       
High School or less 32.2 55.4 32.1 51.6 
Some Post high school 19.8 18.5 23.4 21.3 
College graduate + 48.1 55.4 32.1 51.6 
Average reading (standardized)       
4th grade −0.075 0.000 −0.084 0.002 0.201 −0.007 
5th grade −0.029 0.000 −0.034 0.000 0.228 −0.009 
6th grade 0.153 −0.000 0.072 −0.002 0.242 −0.010 
7th grade −0.070 0.000 0.077 −0.002 0.257 −0.010 
8th grade −0.495 0.001 0.110 −0.002 0.289 −0.010 
Average math (standardized)       
4th grade −0.257 0.001 −0.213 0.005 0.031 −0.001 
5th grade −0.266 0.001 −0.138 0.003 0.052 −0.002 
6th grade 0.054 −0.000 −0.038 0.001 0.169 −0.007 
7th grade −0.148 0.001 −0.023 0.001 0.195 −0.007 
8th grade −0.534 0.001 0.058 −0.001 0.146 −0.005 
199820052012
CharterTPSCharterTPSCharterTPS
Number of students 2,232 474,552 11,378 529,166 20,020 533,415 
Ethnicity (% students)       
Black 35.7 29.6 32.6 29.8 26.3 25.7 
Hispanic 0.8 2.7 2.9 7.5 5.5 13.5 
White 58.6 64.1 59.2 56.8 62.2 53.0 
Other 4.8 3.7 5.3 5.9 6.0 7.8 
Parent education (% students)       
High School or less 32.2 55.4 32.1 51.6 
Some Post high school 19.8 18.5 23.4 21.3 
College graduate + 48.1 55.4 32.1 51.6 
Average reading (standardized)       
4th grade −0.075 0.000 −0.084 0.002 0.201 −0.007 
5th grade −0.029 0.000 −0.034 0.000 0.228 −0.009 
6th grade 0.153 −0.000 0.072 −0.002 0.242 −0.010 
7th grade −0.070 0.000 0.077 −0.002 0.257 −0.010 
8th grade −0.495 0.001 0.110 −0.002 0.289 −0.010 
Average math (standardized)       
4th grade −0.257 0.001 −0.213 0.005 0.031 −0.001 
5th grade −0.266 0.001 −0.138 0.003 0.052 −0.002 
6th grade 0.054 −0.000 −0.038 0.001 0.169 −0.007 
7th grade −0.148 0.001 −0.023 0.001 0.195 −0.007 
8th grade −0.534 0.001 0.058 −0.001 0.146 −0.005 

Notes: Racial composition based on students for whom race is observed. Similarly, percentages for parental education are based on students for whom parental attainment (for the highest-attaining parent) is reported. In the early years, parent education does not have a category for high school +, jumping from high school graduate to trade school/community college. 2008 was the last year information on parent education was collected. All reading and math scores have been standardized by grade and year to have mean zero and standard deviation of 1.

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