NAPCS released its estimate of the 2012-2013 national public charter school waiting list today. We estimate that there were 920,000 student names on waiting lists before the first day of school in the fall of 2012. NAPCS defines a public charter school waiting list as the total number of applications minus the total number of available seats.
Public charter school waiting list data provide evidence of parental demand for public schools of choice—for years NAPCS has shown large numbers of students nationwide applying to attend charter schools (see waiting list estimates from earlier years here). However, raw waiting list data can overestimate the number of students who would like to attend public charter schools, if families apply to more than one charter school. This year, NAPCS convened a working group with researchers from the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and the New York City Charter School Center (NYCCSC) to develop methodological strategies to account for the duplication of charter school applications.
To estimate the overall waiting list number, NAPCS collected charter school waiting list data from four state departments of education and 10 state charter support organizations, and surveyed charter schools in the remaining 27 states with charter schools. Of the charter schools that responded to our survey, 68 percent indicated that they had a waiting list to enroll before the first day of the 2012-2013 school year.
We used a multiple imputation approach to estimate missing waiting list numbers for non-responding schools. To account for possible duplicate applications, the working group agreed that NAPCS should apply a discount rate of 1.63 to the waiting list estimates of public charter schools where there was at least one other charter school with overlapping grade levels within 10 miles. The 1.63 discount came from the average number of applications students submitted when applying to charter schools with paper applications in New York City. For the majority of charter schools across the country, students have to apply separately to charter schools, mimicking the paper application process in NYC. We did not discount the estimated waiting lists for isolated charter schools, under the assumption that it would be unlikely that families would apply to multiple charter schools farther than 10 miles apart.
Based on the discounting strategy, NAPCS estimates that there were roughly 520,000 individual students on waiting lists to attend public charter schools across the country before the start of the 2012-2013 school year. The average charter school enrolls 382 students. The discounted national waiting list estimate of 520,000 could have filled an additional 1,361 charter schools. We would need to grow the number of public charter schools by nearly 25 percent in order to accommodate all of the students on the estimated discounted national waiting list.
Alexis Osifo, 10, is the last person called in Ivy Preparatory Academy's lottery. Image via Brant Sanderlin for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.