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Do charter schools "cherry pick" students?

Do charter schools "cherry pick" students?

Mitch Coffman
January 27, 2012

Despite their status as public schools that may not discriminate, Idaho’s public charter schools have been accused of “cherry-picking” children from families with higher incomes who are, presumably, easier to educate.The reality is charter school student family incomes reflect the general population.

The chart compares the percentages of students who were eligible for free and reduced lunch during the 2008-09 school year (the most recent year publicly available) in 17 charter schools with the percentages of eligible students from the districts around them. Five charter schools had significantly more students living in poverty than the districts surrounding them, five charter schools had poverty rates within plus or minus 3 percentage points of the districts and seven charters had significantly fewer students living in poverty.

Charters with higher poverty rates than surrounding districts:
District(s), charter school(s) Percentages
Boise School District 36
Garden City Charter School 42
Bonneville School District 37
Idaho Falls School District 39
Taylor's Crossing Charter School 45
Meridian School District 24
Compass Charter School 29
Meridian Charter High School 40
Charters and districts with similar poverty rates:
District(s), charter school(s) Percentages
Blackfoot School District 52
Blackfoot Community Learning Charter School 49
Gooding School District 58
North Valley Academy Charter School 58
Lake Pend Oreille School District 46
Sandpoint Charter School 49
Moscow School District 26
Moscow Charter School 26
Nampa School District 55
Idaho Arts Charter School 53
Charters with lower poverty rates than the surrounding districts:
District(s), charter school(s) Percentages
Bonneville School District 37
Idaho Falls School District 39
White Pine Charter School 29
Caldwell School District 75
Thomas Jefferson Charter School 28
Kuna School District 36
Falcon Ridge Charter School 30
Nampa School District 55
Liberty Charter School 32
Victory Charter School 39
Pocatello School District 41
Pocatello Charter School 36


Because many charter schools lack kitchen facilities or otherwise do not participate in the National School Lunch Program, Idaho Freedom Foundation was not able to collect free and reduced lunch statistics for all charter schools. Nevertheless, percentages from 17 charter schools in 12 communities show that, like public schools generally, some public charter schools serve better-off students and some do not. The number of brick and mortar charter schools serving more, about the same, or fewer students living in poverty than the surrounding districts is evenly distributed across the spectrum.

The numbers for the Sandpoint and Pocatello charter schools were supplied by their surrounding districts. The source for all other numbers is "Profiles, Idaho School Districts, 2008-2009." http://cli.gs/uoya277.


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