The Effects of Charter School Competition on Enrollment Trends and Teacher-reported School-level Policies and Behaviors in the District of Columbia Public Schools
Student enrollment in the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) has decreased by almost twenty-five percent in less than a decade. This trend can largely be attributed to student migration to charter schools within the District (Center for Education Reform). As a result, a majority of DCPS schools are currently under-enrolled and thus under-funded, with many at risk of closure or consolidation under Superintendent Clifford Janey s recently unveiled Master Facilities Plan (District of Columbia Public Schools 2006). Although data on the location and grade spans of traditional public schools and public charter schools is largely available, few studies have examined how enrollment at traditional public schools changes relative to the establishment, growth, or relocation of nearby charter schools over time. In addition, most recent studies of charter school competition have focused solely on its impact on student achievement at traditional public schools. This paper seeks to examine whether changes in the ratio of public elementary school enrollment to school capacity over time can be explained by a school s time-varying characteristics, specifically the level of competition from nearby charter schools. Results from a multivariate analysis of panel data modeled with Ordinary Least Squares suggest that increasing competition from charter schools within a one-mile radius significantly reduces traditional public elementary school enrollment. Furthermore, bivariate regression analysis of teacher survey data for a sample of DCPS elementary schools suggests that although some teachers are aware of loss in enrollment due to charter school competition, few school-level policies and behaviors have changed in response to this competition.
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