Resegregation now

Large and medium-sized “school districts in the South have steadily resegregated” when freed from court supervision, according to a Stanford School of Education study published in the fall issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

“Many of the gains that resulted from the Brown decision are being lost,” said Sean Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford and lead author of Brown Fades: The End of Court-Ordered School Desegregation and the Resegregation of American Public Schools.

Suburban schools are failing to integrate disadvantaged minority students, concludes a new book, The Resegregation of Suburban Schools, edited by Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield. “The United States today is a suburban nation that thinks of race as an urban issue, and often assumes that it has been largely solved,” write the editors. Not so.

Parents’ choice: diversity or the suburbs?

Young Aidan or Amelia will start kindergarten soon. Urban gentrifiers must decide: Do we send the kids to a diverse urban school where some of their classmates will be poor and need lots of teacher attention? Or do we move to the boring suburbs where all our kids’ classmates will come from educated families? Facing that decision as a Washington D.C. resident, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli wrote The Diverse Schools Dilemma, which looks at the risks and benefits of schools with socioeconomic diversity.

Though whites make up half of public school students, 87 percent attend majority-white schools. Even in cities, “neighborhood schools still tend to be segregated by class, if not by race,” Petrilli tells the Washington Post. In the Washington D.C. area, less than 3 percent of white public school students attend schools where poor children are the majority, according to Petrilli.

Charter schools, which draw from wider areas, are an option for parents who want to stay in the city. Some of D.C.’s most popular charters are very diverse. But high-performing charter schools often adopt a “no excuses” culture that turns off middle-class parents.

“Many of the charters have uniforms and a rigid discipline code,” he said. “It’s not a culture that celebrates a lot of individualism, personal style or autonomy, the kinds of things that middle-class parents may want. So there are significant differences and cultural clashes that take place.”

Some cities use “controlled choice” to integrate schools by socioeconomic status, but it’s controversial.

Petrilli made a common choice: He moved to Bethesda, Maryland. At his son’s elementary school, 1 percent of the children are low-income, 2 percent are black and 5 percent are Hispanic.

Last month, I visited a wildly diverse charter school in Grand Rapids — lots of poor kids, some of them from African refugee camps, all colors and creeds. A white mother told me she’d chosen the school, in part, for its diversity. I was surprised. People talk about the wonderfulness of diversity, but their choices usually tell a different story.

Charter schools work for disadvantaged kids

Urban charter schools and those serving disadvantaged children improve achievement, while suburban charters and schools serving advantaged students lower achievement, concludes a Mathematica Working Paper. The study compared the achievement of charter middle school students with others who applied for the charter but lost a lottery and had to enroll elsewhere.

K-8 charters show reading, math gains

Charter elementary schools outperform traditional public schools in reading and math and charter middle schools do better in math, according to The Effect of Charter Schools on Student Achievement, an analysis of 40 high-quality studies by economists Julian Betts and Emily Tan of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE).  Overall, the gains are “modest but positive.”

Middle-school reading scores and high school math and reading were about the same.

Charter school effects vary dramatically, the meta-analysis found. Urban charter schools perform better than suburban or rural charters, especially at the middle and high school levels. In particular, Boston charter schools performed significantly better than traditional public schools; New York City charters also showed strong gains.

KIPP  middle-school students showed “significant and large improvements in both math and reading.”  A student who started at the 50th percentile could expect to move to the 59th percentile in math and the 54th percentile in reading in a single year.