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For the early years of North Carolina's charter school program, the racial imbalance in charter schools reflects choices made by both black and white families. Studying fourth through eighth graders who switched into the charter school sector, Bifulco and Ladd (2007, see table 2) documented that students from each racial group gravitated to charter schools containing more of their own group than the school they were leaving. Black students moved out of traditional public schools that were on average 53 percent black to charter schools that averaged 72 percent black; white choosers left schools that were on average 28 percent black in favor of schools that averaged less than 18 percent black. Conditional logit models designed to infer the preferences of charter school choosers confirmed that black and white parents had very different preferences with respect to a school's racial composition. In particular, the preferred mix for black parents was a school that was between 40 and 60 percent black, while the preferred mix for white parents was 20 percent black. Not surprisingly, these preferences are often incompatible with racial balance. Even though black parents might prefer racially balanced schools, the fact that white parents prefer schools with far lower proportions of black students sets up a tipping point. Once a school becomes “too black,” it becomes almost all black as white parents avoid it.

Table 2. 
Descriptive Statistics for Estimates of School Gains
MathReading
CharterSign ofCharterSign of
YearMean (SD)TPS Mean (SD)Charter-TPSMean (SD)TPS Mean (SD)Charter-TPS
1999 −0.078 (0.155) 0.001 (0.084) – −0.056 (0.112) 0.003 (0.068) − 
2000 −0.080 (0.167) 0.001 (0.088) – −0.050 (0.122) 0.001 (0.077) − 
2001 −0.007 (0.179) 0.000 (0.109) – 0.008 (0.100) 0.000 (0.078) 
2002 −0.037 (0.144) 0.001 (0.104) – −0.018 (0.130) 0.000 (0.075) − 
2003 −0.029 (0.164) 0.000 (0.099) – 0.023 (0.107) 0.000 (0.071) 
2004 −0.035 (0.132) 0.001 (0.099) – 0.016 (0.090) 0.000 (0.072) 
2005 −0.012 (0.125) 0.000 (0.097) – 0.007 (0.087) 0.000 (0.068) 
2006 −0.016 (0.144) 0.000 (0.106) – 0.042 (0.083) −0.001 (0.074) 
2007 −0.025 (0.140) 0.001 (0.110) – 0.029 (0.089) −0.001 (0.074) 
2008 
2009 0.015 (0.109) 0.000 (0.108) 0.058 (0.078) −0.002 (0.063) 
2010 0.032 (0.115) −0.001 (0.104) 0.066 (0.062) −0.002 (0.061) 
2011 0.017 (0.109) 0.001 (0.110) 0.058 (0.071) −0.002 (0.064) 
2012 0.003 (0.109) 0.000 (0.117) 0.049 (0.067) −0.002 (0.069) 
MathReading
CharterSign ofCharterSign of
YearMean (SD)TPS Mean (SD)Charter-TPSMean (SD)TPS Mean (SD)Charter-TPS
1999 −0.078 (0.155) 0.001 (0.084) – −0.056 (0.112) 0.003 (0.068) − 
2000 −0.080 (0.167) 0.001 (0.088) – −0.050 (0.122) 0.001 (0.077) − 
2001 −0.007 (0.179) 0.000 (0.109) – 0.008 (0.100) 0.000 (0.078) 
2002 −0.037 (0.144) 0.001 (0.104) – −0.018 (0.130) 0.000 (0.075) − 
2003 −0.029 (0.164) 0.000 (0.099) – 0.023 (0.107) 0.000 (0.071) 
2004 −0.035 (0.132) 0.001 (0.099) – 0.016 (0.090) 0.000 (0.072) 
2005 −0.012 (0.125) 0.000 (0.097) – 0.007 (0.087) 0.000 (0.068) 
2006 −0.016 (0.144) 0.000 (0.106) – 0.042 (0.083) −0.001 (0.074) 
2007 −0.025 (0.140) 0.001 (0.110) – 0.029 (0.089) −0.001 (0.074) 
2008 
2009 0.015 (0.109) 0.000 (0.108) 0.058 (0.078) −0.002 (0.063) 
2010 0.032 (0.115) −0.001 (0.104) 0.066 (0.062) −0.002 (0.061) 
2011 0.017 (0.109) 0.001 (0.110) 0.058 (0.071) −0.002 (0.064) 
2012 0.003 (0.109) 0.000 (0.117) 0.049 (0.067) −0.002 (0.069) 

Notes: Table 2 provides descriptive statistics for our school value-added estimates. In it we report the mean and the standard deviation of performance (SD in parentheses). These statistics are based on student-level estimates, to correspond with the student-level unit of analysis in our value-added models. Thus, these are analogous to frequency weighted school-level estimates. Nonweighted estimates produce similar results. A negative difference between the charter and the traditional public school (TPS) mean signifies that the charters exhibit lower average gains in test scores than the traditional public schools. 2008 is excluded so as to make the models similar across years; the 2008 data do not have the free or reduced-price lunch variable, a key predictor in our models.

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