Choices without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards

Already the subject of much consternation in the blogosphere, this report investigates the current state of charter school demographics and chastises the charter movement for the proliferation of racially-isolated schools. Looking at charters in forty states and a few dozen metropolitan areas, the authors find that they are almost universally more segregated than traditional district schools, particularly for black students. Combine that with mixed reviews of charters’ academic effectiveness, and you will not be surprised that Gary Orfield writes in the foreword that magnet schools are a superior option. To say that charter advocates disagree is a massive understatement. Many question the premise of the report (that racial isolation is necessarily a bad thing), laud charters for targeting the nation’s most disadvantaged students, and praise the best of them (e.g., KIPP and Achievement First) for doing the job magnificently. Some also fault the study’s methodology for comparing charter demographics to those of entire school districts rather than neighborhood public schools down the block. You can read the report here.

Erica Frankenberg, Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, and Jia Wang
The Civil Rights Project
January 2010

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