NC Charters Close State’s SAT Gap?

For many years, North Carolina’s public schools have lagged far behind the national average in college-bound SAT scores. Since 1998, however, that gap has steadily shrunk in direct proportion to the number of students enrolled in charter schools.  By 2012, the gap has closed to nearly nothing.

SAT and Charter Enrollment

The link to a graph of scores and enrollment and the table of data values is here: SAT and Enrollment

From a year-after-year gap of -40 points trailing the national average, the gap has closed to only -4 points in 2012 during the same period that charter school enrollment rose from 0 to 49,000.  The statistical correlation coefficient for these data is over 0.98, where 1.0 is perfect.

The cause of this rise in SAT scores could be due to the competition posed by charter schools to the traditional districts.  And the more that charters  were competing for students, the more that traditional districts had to put their game faces on, quit making excuses, and take education more seriously.

Correlation does not prove causation, but what other change in the North Carolina educational landscape occurred that could account for this very significant improvement?

For a national study on the effects of charter competition on district schools see   “Competition between charter schools and traditional public schools for students may induce a constructive reaction, an obstructive reaction, or no response,” states the article, and they examine cases in each category.



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3 Responses to NC Charters Close State’s SAT Gap?

  1. bakeramitchell says:

    Dear Jean,

    The post is quite explicit in never claiming causation, merely correlation (at the breathtaking level of .98). I speculate that it “could be” competition by charters. I never claim that it “must be” anything.

    I conclude by asking the reader “…what other change in the North Carolina educational landscape occurred that could account for this very significant improvement?” This question is a plea for help – not a rhetorical device.

    So far, no other changes have been suggested that might account for the improved SAT scores.

    I don’t actually have any 4-year old brains around, so I’ll suggest trying a thought experiment. Shut down all the charter schools next year and eliminate the competition they pose to public district schools. In ten years, we would be able to see if the SAT gap kept closing, or if its trend reversed with the gap sliding back down to -40 points. Would you risk the possible damage done just to definitively eliminate the charters’ causation?

    But I do actually have a 73-year brain that could easily forget that charters exist. Suppose I saw just the gap data graphed in red, above. I would want to try and discover what variable accounted for the steady improvement. Rather than address this issue, you wrote two lengthy off-point comments which I approved. If your third comment is not on point with a plausible suggestion, it is going in the trash.

    Finally to allow my own off-point comment, I am a huge fan of the all the MA teacher certification tests that you have up there. I have had our elementary teachers take MA’s Foundations of Reading 3-hour test (Pearson’s NES-104). I think is is wonderful because the teachers’ scores (merely) correlate highly with their students’ successes. Several years ago, I memo’ed a number of legislators and state school board people regarding its efficacy. Perhaps coincidentally, the NC state school board has now made it a requirement for certification. Every parent should be grateful to Sandra Stotsky and Kate Walsh who are pushing for better ed schools.

  2. jean sanders says:

    North Carolina is doing horrid things to teachers and students. It is irresponsible for people to post these kinds of conclusions in order to push a belief system or an ideology. quote: “but what other change in the North Carolina educational landscape occurred that could account for this very significant improvement?” This is not my job. It is the responsibility of the publishers to do the diligent efforts BEFORE they create the headlines . It is like the cigarette companies who, when tobacco was discovered to cause cancer, went about with headlines saying “smoke to prevent alzheimers.” It is fraud and selling of “snake oil”. ( I am retired — was adjunct faculty at 4 different universities and director of research; I would never have allowed my students to get away with this kind of mis-representation. )

  3. jean sanders says:

    this is what is called “selection on the dependent variable”…. You can’t clearly state what causes “successful” achievement in Finland merely by picking from a hat. The studies are never able to show causation. In regards to Finland, is it the cold temperate climate? the amount of fish eaten by the students, the ability of the adults to keep the schools warmer in winter? I am definitely being facetious but it is not possible to show cause -effect from the nature of these studies. Yet, you jump at a conclusion that it must be your favorite ideology that creates something. It is like the child who is thinking on a level below the age of 4….. (I did not originate the discussion of selection on the dependent variable; cf. Jay P. Greene)

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