Are charter schools a civil rights failure?

Are charter schools a civil rights failure? No way, say National Journal’s Education Experts in response to the UCLA Civil Rights Project report, which complained that charters are more likely to be nearly all black than district-run public schools. The report also said Western charters are disproportionately white.

“Equity” is not the same as “integration,” says Ross Wiener, executive director of the Education and Society Program at the Aspen Institute.

The report’s blithe embrace of integration as the paramount concern is oblivious to serious inequities often found in integrated schools. And it’s dismissive of the priorities of black parents – 80% of whom told Public Agenda that raising academic achievement is their top priority for schools, compared with 8% of whom list integration and 11% who want to prioritize both.

You can’t win for trying, says Education Sector’s Kevin Carey.

“This report is almost too ridiculous to comment on,” says Tom Vander Ark, former Gates Foundation education director and now an education consultant.

From Democrats for Education Reform: “The UCLA Civil Rights Project seemingly wants to block minority parents from choosing to enroll their children in better schools simply because it feels those schools aren’t white enough. What’s up with that?”

Update: Charter schools run by education management organizations are “substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition, and language” than the districts in which they’re located concludes a study by the Education and the Public Interest Center and the Education Policy Research Unit. Privately run charters tend to serve very low-income students or very high-income students, the report said.

At Educated Guess, my former colleague John Fensterwald suspects that some of the mostly white charters are umbrellas for homeschoolers. He notes that San Jose Unified rejected a proposed charter on grounds in the heavily Hispanic downtown on grounds it “would further racial segregation.” The county board of education approved Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary, which is now 91 percent Hispanic, 84 percent low income and 73 percent English Learners — and outscoring most of San Jose Unified’s elementary schools.

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  1. that quote isn’t from Eliza, it is Eliza quoting Ross Wiener.

  2. Hi All… hope this finds you well.

    Although in this report the focus is on charter schools… it seems obvious that are entire public school system is becoming more and more segragated.

    I would need to disagree with this statement for both our public school systems as well as our charters.
    Equity” is not the same as “integration,” says Eliza Krigman of National Journal.

    What is equity and how is it not related to integration???

    Reminds me of Plessy.

    Where does Brown fit into this discussion?

    be well…mike

  3. Thanks, Jacob. I’ve fixed it.

  4. I hope it’s clear that these discussion are largely academic?

    Try to achieve the dreamy perfection of fully heterogeneous schools by pulling black kids out of the charter schools their parents selected for them and the hollering and screaming that attended forced busing back in the seventies will attractive by comparison.

  5. A better question would be the following: Are professors (and “academics” in general) who believe that charter schools are a civil rights failure instead a failure of our educational system to educate these professors? Just asking.

  6. Margo/Mom says:

    I recall some research into the entire question of choice as regards equity. It was an international study that was able to consider a number of different systems with varying degrees of choice. The answer is not simple, but it does align with either what the study said, or the recommendation that I read in another article reporting on the study.

    Increased choice can lead to “pooling” effects–students who have more end up seated next to other students who also have more. Even in systems where geography is the primary determinent of where on goes to school. HOWEVER, if the system operates in a way that some might consider to be largely market driven–that is, when a particular school becomes very popular, it is replicated or expanded, while schools that lag in popularity are minimized or closed, that pooling is greatly diminished. Further, if popularity tracks with quality (big if, I will grant), the overall quality of the system tends to improve.

  7. According to Jay Greene, charter schools in LA are no more segregated than the neighborhood schools which their students would otherwise attend. Compared to all of California’s government-operated schools, LA charter schools look racially segregated. Compared to LA’s government schools, they are not.


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