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The corrected version of the Duke report, which removed the direct comparison between scholarship and public school students, instead provides— as a representation of public school performance—a “public school comparison” page of two groups of students: 1) public school students in North Carolina measured against public school students nationwide; and 2) public school students in North Carolina who are eligible for the federal school lunch program (FRL students) measured against other public school students nationwide who are eligible for the school lunch program. Text in the corrected report summarizes data this way:

For 2015, the NAEP data shows that, as a group, the North Carolina public school children scored above the national public school average in 2 of 4 categories: 4th grade reading, 4th grade math; exactly at the national average for 8th grade math; and slightly below the national average for 8th grade reading. This held true for North Carolina public school children who are eligible for the federal school lunch program.10

Since researchers point out that both FRL public school students in North Carolina and overall public school students in North Carolina performed better, on balance, than a national comparison group, they seem to imply that public school students in the state are better off academically than scholarship students. Presenting data this way is problematic and somewhat misleading, however, given the presentation of data in the report on scholarship students. Neither version of the Duke report compares FRL public school students in North Carolina directly to a nationally representative sample of all public school students taking NAEP. (NAEP is also administered to students at private schools, but these schools “are not included in state-level results which are solely focused on public schools,” according to NAEP guidelines about sample determinations.11) Here is how NAEP defines some sample guidelines: To ensure that a representative sample of students is assessed, NAEP is given in a sample of schools whose students reflect the varying demographics of a specific jurisdiction, be it the nation, a state, or a district. Within each selected school and grade to be assessed, students are chosen at random to participate in NAEP. Every student has the same chance of being chosen—regardless of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, status as an English language learner, or any other factors.12

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North Carolina Opportunity Scholarships: Countering a Flawed Duke Report and Setting the Record Straight

OSP White Paper  

NORTH CAROLINA OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIPS: Countering a Flawed Duke Report and Setting the Record Straight