Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Diverse Charter Schools: Praise, Criticism, and Relevancy

Education Next ran a long story on diverse charter schools this past winter.  Last week ,the New Orlean's Advocate ran its own story about a new diverse school in its own backyard.  These schools are remarkable because they have tended to sprout up in districts that are otherwise racially and socio-economically diverse, like as New York City and Washington, D.C.  They show that charter schools are capable of achieving ends that otherwise allude regular public schools.  Some of them also show the capacity to draw students from across district lines, thus evading the primary driver of segregation, which Milliken v. Bradley indicated was beyond the power of courts.  For these reasons, Jim Ryan touted the possibility of charter schools in his book, Five Miles Away, A World Apart.  

While these schools show promise, they remain tiny drops in a huge bucket of segregation.  The Century Foundation has identified 24 diverse charters that have sprung up in recent years.  As of 2010, there were over 5,300 charters and their numbers have increased since then.  In addition, some local communities charge that this diversity has come with a price.  Some claim the schools have exclusively catered to and recruited middle income families, fostering the perception that they are schools of exclusion rather than inclusion.  Likewise, advocates in NYC have emphasized that their diverse charter schools are not diverse in all respects, but rather enroll far fewer special education students than other schools.  The bottom line seems to be we must push far much harder for diverse schools and not lose site of the fact that it matters how we achieve diversity.  We must be equally mindful that they are open and diverse in all respects.

Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink


Diverse charter schools are a fascinating topic, much like magnets before them, but even more complicated. To the extent they enroll disproportionately high white/middle class student bodies, they can be criticized (as magnets have been) as doing too much to benefit such students at the expense of the rest of the schools in a community. Yet, they also seem to have the greatest chance of doing 2 things that have otherwise been made next to impossible and that have proven track record of improving opportunities for students: overcome (1) geographic segregation and (2) racial and/or socioeconomic isolation. Throw on that the questions about their constitutionality in the first place and the special ed concern Derek's post raises... A fascinating topic, even if a just a drop in the bucket.

Posted by: Daniel Kiel | Nov 13, 2013 2:12:35 PM

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