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Study: Nation’s Charter Schools Are Places of Racial Isolation

Study: Nation’s Charter Schools Are Places of Racial Isolation


The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University (CRP) released a new study ­earlier this month on segregation patterns in the nation’s charter schools.
“Charter Schools and Race: A Lost Opportunity for Integrated Education,” written by Erica Frankenberg and Chungmei Lee, is the third in a series examining segregation trends in America’s public schools at the beginning of the 21st century.
Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed that diversity is a compelling state interest and affirmed that racial and ethnic diversity is a benefit for students of all races. However, instead of creating schools of diversity, many charter schools across the nation are places of racial isolation, particularly for minority students.
Dr. Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and author of the report’s foreword, noted: “Creating choice without serious civil rights policies tends to reflect and even reinforce segregation, losing an opportunity to provide integrated education preparing students for diverse colleges and workplaces. As a native Minnesotan, I am particularly distressed at the poor record in the birthplace of the charter movement, one of the nation’s Whitest states, where segregation of minority students is notably severe.”
When it first began, the charter school movement struck a chord in many communities, particularly in urban districts: more than 2,300 charter schools are now educating about 1 percent of the student population nationwide, and often larger percentages in the states and districts where charter schools are concentrated.
Now, more than a decade later, 70 percent of Black charter school students attend intensely segregated schools compared with 34 percent of Black public school students. In almost every state studied, the average Black charter school student attends school with a higher percentage of Black students and a lower percentage of White students. Furthermore, there are pockets of White segregation, where White charter students are often as isolated as Black charter students. The results are mixed for Latino students.
Given the flexibility to innovate and to transcend school district boundary lines, charter schools have the potential to create integrated schools. Yet, after more than a decade, there is strikingly little clear evidence that this is happening.

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