Charter schools are diverse, and historically serve proportionately more students of color and more low-income students than district schools. According to most recently available data, 68.7% of charter school students and 52.4% of district school students are students of color, while 59.3% of charter school students and 54.3% of district school students were economically disadvantaged students (“EDS”).

Black and Hispanic students have always comprised approximately 44-59% of the charter school population; in their district school counterparts, the same groups have never held more than approximately 41% of enrollment share. For both charter and district schools, however, the percentage of students who are Hispanic, Asian, and Native American/ Pacific Islander/ Two or More Races (“Other”) have increased since the 2009-10 school year, while percentages of Black and White students have decreased. Hispanic students, in particular, have shown dramatic and consistent growth in charter schools since 2009-10 and reached the plurality of the charter student population in the 2016-17 school year.

On average, charter schools serve slightly higher proportions of low English proficiency students (“LEPS”) compared to their district peers, particularly in recent years (14.3% versus 11.9% of students in 2017-18). However, charter schools also serve a slightly lower proportion of students with disabilities (“SWD”) compared to district schools (12.0% versus 13.8% in 2017-18).

For state-by-state breakdowns of these charter and district school demographics in the most recent available school year, please see here.

Table 2.1: Charter School Student Demographics

Note: Other represents the total of "Other", "American Indian/ Alaska Native", and "Pacific Islander/ Hawaii Native". EDS = Economically disadvantaged students, SWD = Students with disability, LEPS = Low English proficiency students. Race/ethnicity data are from authors’ calculation using the 2009-10 through 2018-19 Common Core of Data. EDS, SWD, and LEPS data are from authors’ calculations using EdFacts data from 2009-10 through 2017-18. See here for details.

Table 2.2: District School Student Demographics

Note: Other represents the total of "Other", "American Indian/ Alaska Native", and "Pacific Islander/ Hawaii Native". EDS = Economically disadvantaged students, SWD = Students with disability, LEPS = Low English proficiency students. Race/ethnicity data are from authors’ calculation using the 2009-10 through 2018-19 Common Core of Data. EDS, SWD, and LEPS data are from authors’ calculations using EdFacts data from 2009-10 through 2017-18. See here for details.


About the Authors

Jamison White
Jamison White

Sr. Manager, Data & Research

Before joining the National Alliance in 2017, Jamison worked as a financial and small-business consultant in Pittsburgh, Boston, and the greater New York area. Jamison studied at Carnegie Mellon University and Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. He is a part of a founding group for a classical charter school in Washington, DC. In his free time, Jamison researches school curricula, pedagogies, and charter school models.

Jessica Snydman
Jessica Snydman

Data and Research Specialist

Prior to joining NAPCS, Jessica held internships with Girl Scouts of the U.S.A’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office and Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2). She also worked for the legal firm Krooth & Altman, LLP in D.C., assisting with numerous HUD multifamily affordable housing deals. Jessica is a Baltimore native and a passionate advocate for students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD, having centered the bulk of her academic and professional efforts on supporting the needs of neurodiverse learners. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dickinson College, and her master’s degree in Education Policy Studies from The George Washington University.