Archives for category: Segregation

Peter Schrag has written sensibly about education issues for many years.

In this article, he analyzes the complexities of the Vergara trial, in which a rich and powerful coalition of corporate reformers are trying to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

In the end, he argues, the outcome of the trial won’t change much for poor kids.

If the plaintiffs win, some very good veteran teachers may be fired to save money.

The legislature will enact some new laws, perhaps basing layoffs on “effectiveness” (i.e. test scores) rather than due process, but as we know from the recent report of the American Statistical Association, test-based accountability (VAM) is fraught with problems and will end up stigmatizing those who teach in high-poverty schools.

He quotes Russlyn Ali, who was Secretary Arne Duncan’s assistant secretary for civil rights and is now supporting the Vergara plaintiffs:


Laws that make it hard to dismiss or replace teachers were originally designed to protect them against the nepotism and the racial, social and cultural biases that were all too common in education until well after World War II. If those protections are curtailed, and if a new system relying heavily on “effectiveness” — itself an uncertain standard — is put in place, what’s to say it won’t make teachers competitors and undermine morale and collaboration?
It’s possible that if the courts find that the tenure laws in this case offend constitutional equal protection guarantees, many of the system’s other inequities might be open to legal challenge as well. Ali, among others, has that hope, and she sees Vergara as a first step in that larger battle.
But if the Vergara plaintiffs win a resounding victory in this case, don’t look for any quick change in the schools or some great improvement in outcomes for disadvantaged kids. There are just too many other uncertainties, too many inequities, too many other unmet needs.


My view: the trial continues the blame game favored by the Obama administration and the billionaire boys’ club, in which they blame “bad” teachers as the main culprit in low academic performance. Their refusal to recognize that standardized tests accurately measure family income and family education is their blind spot. It is easier to blame teachers than to take strong action to reduce poverty and racial segregation. It is sad and ironic that the most segregated schools in the United States today are charter schools, yet the Obama administration wants more of them. If the Vergara plaintiffs win, there will be fewer teachers eager to risk their reputation teaching the kids who have the greatest needs. If the plaintiffs win, this case will then be a setback for the rights of the kids, no victory at all.


If the corporate reformers refuse to attack the root causes of low test scores, then Peter Schrag is quite right to say that nothing much will change.,0,3459594.story#ixzz2ygmthcp2


Leo Casey, director of the Albert Shanker Institute, writes here about the recent report of the UCLA Civil Rights Project. That report found that Néw York has the most racially segregated schools in the nation.

Casey writes:

“Last month saw the publication of a new report, New York State’s Extreme School Segregation, produced by UCLA’s highly regarded Civil Rights Project. It confirmed what New York educators have suspected for some time: our schools are now the most racially segregated schools in the United States. New York’s African-American and Latino students experience “the highest concentration in intensely-segregated public schools (less than 10% white enrollment), the lowest exposure to white students, and the most uneven distribution with white students across schools.”

Driving the statewide numbers were schools in New York City, particularly charter schools. Inside New York City, “the vast majority of the charter schools were intensely segregated,” the report concluded, significantly worse in this regard “than the record for public schools.”

And he adds:

“Interestingly, while New York City charter schools are more segregated by race than the district schools, they are less segregated by class; this pattern reflects a recruitment of students from inner city communities whose families possess more economic resources. Such recruitment also has the effect of intensifying the economic class segregation in the city’s high-poverty community schools.

“New York City schools that are doubly segregated by race and class end up with extraordinary concentrations of social and economic need – with high numbers of students who are homeless, who suffer from untreated health conditions, who have special needs, and who are English language learners. In a very real way, these schools are actually more segregated than were southern schools during the Jim Crow era, when racially segregated African-American schools still contained the full spectrum of economic classes and educational need found in the community.”

In a few weeks, our nation will mark the 60th anniversary of the Brown Vs. Board of Education decision. Separate but equal can never be equal. It is a sad commentary on our society that the very people who claim to be leading “the civil rights movement of our time” are creating the most racially segregated schools of our time.

The segregationists of the 1950s made “school choice” their battle cry. Now it is treated as “reform.” What a hoax.

Imagine if Arne Duncan had used the $5 billion in discretionary funds that Congress gave him in 2009 to reward states and districts that devised feasible plans to reduce racial segregation. Five years later, that money would have made a huge difference. Instead, we have closed schools, battles over Common Core, high-stakes testing, demoralized teachers, more states adopting vouchers that will produce more segregation. A truly wasted opportunity.

According to the UCLA Civil Rights Project, New York State has the most segregated public schools in the nation. Nearly three-quarters of the charter schools in New York City are considered “apartheid schools” because less than 1% of their enrollment is white. Charters are often more racially segregated than the district in which they are located.


2014 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, which ruled that legally-sanctioned racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.





New York Schools Most Segregated in the Nation

UCLA report identifies alarming trends throughout the Empire State

LOS ANGELES–A report released today by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project finds that public school students in New York continue to be severely segregated. Public school students in the state are increasingly isolated by race and class as the proportion of minority and poor students continues to grow, according to the CRP report, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future.”

The study explores trends in enrollment and school segregation patterns from 1989 to 2010 at the state and regional levels, including the New York City metropolitan areas of Long Island and the New York City District, and the upstate metropolitan areas of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.

The report also documents the history of school desegregation in the state and across its geographic regions, including key desegregation cases and remedies in Yonkers, Rochester, and Buffalo.

In New York City, in particular, the report highlights both historical and current practices and policies perpetuating racial imbalance and educational inequity across schools, and challenged by parents and community organizations.

Educational problems linked to racially segregated schools, which are often intensified by poverty concentration, include a less-experienced and less-qualified teacher workforce, high levels of teacher turnover, inadequate facilities and learning materials, high dropout rates, and less stable enrollments. Conversely, desegregated schools are linked to profound benefits for all students.

“This report runs the geographic gamut: from the upstate metros dealing with transforming demographics and an urban-suburban divide, to Long Island, one of the most segregated and fragmented suburban rings in the country, and New York City, the largest school district in the country,” said John Kucsera, lead author of the report.

Specific findings at Various Geographic Levels


At the state level, the proportion of Latino and Asian students has nearly doubled from 1989 to 2010, as the exposure of these groups to white students has decreased.

Concentration levels have increased for black students in intensely segregated minority schools (where less than 10% of the student body is white), and there has been a simultaneous and dramatic increase in black exposure to Latino students over the last 20 years.
In terms of poverty concentration, statewide patterns show that schools become more low-income as their enrollment becomes majority minority.

Nearly 50% of public school students were low-income in 2010, but the typical black or Latino student attended a school where close to 70% of classmates were low-income. Conversely, the typical white student attended school where less than 30% of classmates were low-income.

Upstate Metropolitan Areas:

In Buffalo, the typical white student attended a school with 30% of poor students compared to 73% for the typical black student, two and one half times more.

Black and Latino students experienced a substantial increase in the percentage concentrated in intensely segregated schools (those with less than 10% white students) since 1989.

In the Syracuse metropolitan area, the proportion of black students grew by 4%, but black isolation rates skyrocketed. The average black student attended school in 1989 with a third of students from their own race; twenty years later, the typical black student attended schools with nearly half black students.

The majority of school districts in upstate New York remain predominantly white. In the Rochester metro, however, near a quarter of school districts are drastically changing, with most substantially integrating nonwhite students.

In the Albany metro, 97% of the metro’s multigroup segregation – measured by the distribution of racial groups in schools across the metro – occurred between rather than within districts. A total of 59 out of 65 districts in 2010 were predominantly white or nonwhite.
New York City:

Across the 32 Community School Districts (CSDs) in New York City, 19 had 10% or less white students in 2010, which included all districts in the Bronx, two-thirds of the districts in Brooklyn (central to north districts), half of the districts in Manhattan (northern districts), and only two-fifths of the districts in Queens (southeast districts).

73% of charters across New York City were considered apartheid schools (less than 1% white enrollment) and 90% percent were intensely segregated (less than 10% white enrollment) schools in 2010. Only 8% of charter schools were multiracial and with over a 14.5% white enrollment (the New York City average).

Magnet schools across the New York City district had the highest proportion of multiracial schools (47%) and the lowest proportion of segregated schools (56%) in 2010. However, 17% of magnets had less than 1% white enrollment and 7% had greater than 50% white enrollment, with PS 100 Coney Island having a white proportion of 81%.
New York Metropolitan Area:

For the New York City metro in 2010, the five boroughs represented nearly 60% of the state’s total black students, two-thirds of the total Asian and Latino students, but only 10% of white students.
In Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, where charter schools consist of around 10% of all public schools, nearly all charters were intensely segregated in 2010, with less than 10% white student enrollment. 100% of the Bronx charters, 90% of those in Brooklyn, and 97% of the Manhattan charters were intensely segregated.

Author Kucsera states, “Many of these areas, particularly suburban ones, have experienced dramatic demographic transformation coupled with a lack of diversity-focused policies, and this inevitably leads to problematic segregation patterns.”

With the help of various New York-based community groups, researchers, and civil rights organizations, the report provides a host of recommendations and actions to help create and maintain integrated schools from the federal level down to local communities and schools. These include altering school choice plans to ensure they promote diversity, supporting communities that are experiencing racial change by helping them create voluntary desegregation plans, and creating regional or interdistrict programs in urban/suburban areas.

“In the 30 years I have been researching schools, New York State has consistently been one of the most segregated states in the nation–no Southern state comes close to New York,” commented CRP Co-Director Gary Orfield. “Decades of reforms ignoring this issue produced strategies that have not succeeded in making segregated schools equal. It is time to adopt creative school choice strategies to give more New York children an opportunity to prepare to live and work effectively in a highly multiracial state.”

Read the report and see a complete breakdown of the data. This report is the fifth in a series of 12 reports on East Coast school segregation trends.

About the Civil Rights Project at UCLA
Founded in 1996 by former Harvard professors Gary Orfield and Christopher Edley, Jr., The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles is now co-directed by Orfield and Patricia Gándara, professors at UCLA. Its mission is to create a new generation of research in social science and law on the critical issues of civil rights and equal opportunity for racial and ethnic groups in the United States. It has monitored the success of American schools in equalizing opportunity and has been the authoritative source of segregation statistics. CRP has commissioned more than 400 studies, published more than 15 books and issued numerous reports from authors at universities and research centers across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision upholding affirmative action, and in Justice Breyer’s dissent (joined by three other Justices) to its 2007 Parents Involved decision, cited the Civil Rights Project’s research.

The Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles
8370 Math Sciences, Box 951521
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521

By now, there is a sizable literature about the connection between “choice” and segregation. We should never forget that choice was the favorite school policy of George Wallace and other segregationists.

Hoboken, New Jersey, is Governor Chris Christie’s little Petri dish for segregated schools. The best way to keep gentrification going is to kep expanding charter schools, so that young white families don’t have to patronize public schools. Those public schools are for poor black and brown kids.

Read Salon’s interview with the president of the embattled Hoboken public schools.

Jersey Jazzman calls out New Jersey’s leading newspaper for making really surprising comments about a charter school in Hoboken.

The Hola charter school is innovative, and parents are lining up to get their kids in. It gets high test scores, and only 11% of its students are poor in a district where 72% of the kids are poor.

JJ writes:

Let’s recap: there’s a charter school that takes far fewer kids in poverty than the neighboring public schools. It does a “terrific job,” but — and this isn’t me saying this, but the Star-Ledger itself — that’s only because the charter serves so few kids in poverty. So it’s not fair to compare Hola to the public schools — again, even the S-L admits this — because they don’t serve the same children. And every dollar Hola takes away from the Hoboken school district is a dollar that doesn’t go to children who live in poverty — the children who are more expensive to educate than the children who, the S-L acknowledges, go to Hola. Everyone clear on this? OK…

Now, let’s get something straight about what is happening in Hoboken.

It is a tiny district. It has three charter schools. The charter schools serve the white and black middle-class residents of the city, while the public schools are for the poor and non-white.

I think this used to be called racial segregation.

Whatever happened to the Brown vs. Board of Education decision?

Yeah, that was sixty years ago, but is it a dead letter?

Half a century ago, as the civil rights movement grew in strength and intensity, “school choice” was understood to e a synonym for segregation. Leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for a democratic and equitable public school system. But, oh, how times have changed. Now there are organizations led by African Americans who want vouchers and charters to escape the public schools. No matter that such schools promote segregation. These 21st century leaders want school choice.


Julian Vasquez Heilig explains here how billionaires have co-opted minority groups to join their campaign to fight unions, fight teachers, and demand privatization.

The answer will not surprise you.

“Under the mantra of civil rights, billionaires such as Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Koch Brothers and the powerful corporate-funded lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are using venture philanthropy and the political process to press for school reforms in the United States.

“The ongoing Vergara law case in California in which nine students are suing the state over teacher tenure laws, is backed by Student Matters, a non-profit that has received donations from the Broad Foundation and the Walton Foundation, run by the Walton family that founded supermarket chain Wal-Mart.

“The driver behind the case is a campaign to loosen labour rules in order to make it easier to fire “bad” teachers, under the argument that their presence discriminates against disadvantaged children. Opponents of the case argue that it is a blatant attempt to change the conversation from the realities of California’s divestment in education — the state is 46th in the nation in spending per student in 2010-11, and 50th in the number of students per teacher.

“What these organisations and other others such as the the Koch brothers, Bradley Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Students First and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education – all supposedly supporters of school reform – have as a common denominator is a vision of a profit-based market approach to education.

“School vouchers are one of the primary education reform policy approaches pressed by the billionaires and the business lobby. Voucher programs, which provide public funding for students to attend private schools, have become more popular in the US in the past several decades.”

He adds:

“….these special interests are supporting vouchers and other neoliberal reforms contrary to the interests of students of colour. In doing so they will shift the US education system to maximise corporate profits, while limiting democratic control of public schools.

“These same billionaire “reformers” have co-opted the equity discourse by offering a carrot to minority groups. This can sometimes be in the form of millions of dollars as in the case of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina. But all this hides the inequity that profit-based approaches to education foment.”

There has long been evidence that charter schools are more segregated than the districts in which they operate, and a few scholars–like Gary Orfield at UCLA have systematically documented the segregating consequences of charters. Public officials tend to shrug off such concerns as irrelevant to the quest for higher test scores or just an unfortunate fact of life over which they are powerless.

But now there is a scholarly research review by Iris Rotberg of George Washington University. It appears in the Phi Delta Kappan with ample documentation.

Rotberg writes that the Obama administration’s Race to the Top has promoted charter schools, implicitly encouraging segregation. Despite Arne Duncan’s belief that the research is not in on the matter, Rotberg shows that the research is decisive and unambiguous.

She writes:

“The fact is we don’t have to guess about the consequences of one of the Obama Administration’s most visible policies: the national expansion of charter schools. We need only turn to a large body of relevant research showing that charter schools, on average, don’t have an academic advantage over traditional public schools (Gill et al., 2007; Gleason, Clark, Tuttle, & Dwoyer, 2010), but they do have a significant risk of leading to increased segregation (Booker, Zimmer, & Buddin, 2005; Gulosino & d’Entremont, 2011).”

Reviewing numerous studies, she reaches this conclusion:

“There is a strong link between school choice programs and an increase in student segregation by race, ethnicity, and income.”

She also finds that “The risk of segregation is a direct reflection of the design of the school choice program.”

She notes here:

“Charter schools, even under a lottery system, also choose — sometimes explicitly and sometimes indirectly — and increase the probability of segregation. They limit the services they provide, thereby excluding certain students, or offer programs that appeal only to a limited group of families (Furgeson et al., 2012; Welner, 2013). Some charter schools also exclude students from consideration because their parents can’t meet the demanding parent involvement requirements, or they expel students who haven’t met the school’s academic or behavioral requirements (Miron, Urschel, Mathis, & Tornquist, 2010; Heilig, Williams, McNeil, & Lee, 2011). Charter schools also choose where to locate which, in turn, influences enrollment options given the transportation difficulties for low-income students (Gulosino & d’Entremont, 2011; Jarvis & Alvanides, 2008; Ozek, 2011).

“In some communities, charter schools have a higher concentration of minority students than traditional public schools (Booker, Zimmer, & Buddin, 2005; Institute on Race and Poverty, 2008). In others, charter schools serve as a vehicle for “white flight” (Bifulco, Ladd, & Ross, 2008; Ni, 2007; Renzulli & Evans, 2005; Heilig, Williams, McNeil, & Lee, 2011). School segregation increases in both cases — in the charter schools students attend and in the traditional public schools they would have attended (Institute on Race and Poverty, 2008). This outcome can be offset only if the choice program has a specific goal to increase diversity.

“However, the federal role in encouraging charter school diversity has been minimal. Although legislation in some states includes provisions on diversity, without oversight, the legislative language has had little effect. Advising charter schools to be diverse will not make it happen (Lubienski & Weitzel, 2009; Siegel-Hawley & Frankenberg, 2011).”

Rotberg points out:

Even beyond race, ethnicity, and income, school choice programs result in increased segregation for special education and language-minority students, as well as in increased segregation of students based on religion and culture.

“Special education and language-minority students are under-represented in charter schools, unless the schools are specifically targeted to these population groups (Arcia, 2006; Sattin-Bajaj & Suarez-Orozco, 2012; Scott, 2012). Even when the students are selected in a lottery, they are discouraged from attending charter schools when the schools do not provide the services they require.

“Perhaps less visible, but clearly growing, are charter schools that target specific religious and cultural groups (Eckes, Fox, & Buchanan, 2011). Some of these schools were formerly private religious schools, schools that are likely to attract specific religious groups (for example, by offering extensive language instruction in Hebrew, Arabic, or Greek), or schools designed to appeal to families with particular social or political values. Such niche schools often result in the segregation of students by religion or by social values — a type of stratification many countries now struggle with that has not traditionally been prevalent in U.S. public education. As charter schools proliferate, so do these schools — a trend that will almost inevitably lead to a public school system that is increasingly fragmented.”

What to conclude: the Obama administration’s support and encouragement of charter schools (building on the precedent of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations) is promoting segregation by race, class, language, religion, and culture.

In education policy, the Obama administration has actively undermined the Brown decision and used federal policy and federal billions to undermine public education and school desegregation. Those are strong words, but the research and evidence support them.

In this post, Jack Schneider explains why he and his wife chose to send their daughter to the public school across the street.

Schneider, a historian of education (like me), knows that many of his friends and acquaintances don’t agree or approve.

They are not bigots, but they nonetheless are uncomfortable when confronted with the opportunity to react with people of a different race or class from themselves.

Yet, says Schneider, that is exactly why he and his wife wanted their child to attend a public school.

They want her to learn to live in the world and not to be afraid of those who are different from her.

Instead of fleeing to the whitest, most affluent school they can find, he says, parents should be fighting for diverse public schools.

He writes:

The purpose of education, we might recall, is to lay the ground so that young people may find their way through the world in whatever manner they wish, and find their place in it whatever that place may be. The aim is not merely to promote the accretion of knowledge — something segregated schools can do as well as integrated schools — but also to expand the mind and nurture the soul. Education should broaden. It should transform.

Which schools are best prepared to execute this task? Certainly those with qualified teachers, rich and varied curricula, adequate resources, and positive cultures. But also those with diverse student bodies capable of expressing a full range of experiences — student bodies that will expand the way that young people perceive the world and relate to each other. Just as no parent should compromise on the former of those characteristics, none should ignore the importance of the latter.

Truly diverse schools are an educational imperative. Not just because they are a bulwark against racial and economic injustice. But also because they teach young people how to see and be seen in new ways. They are places that serve all students. And insofar as that is the case, all parents should be fighting for them.

Theresa Minitullo, a passionate advocate for Hoboken public schools, is dismayed that the city has separate and unequal school systems, all publicly funded.

The overwhelming majority of poor kids go to the public schools.

The white kids and non-poor kids go to the charter schools.

There is a reason: the charters help gentrify Hoboken, assuring young professional tat their kids can get a free public education without saving to go to school with ” those kids.”

But what happened to the Brown decision? Remember? 1954?

A few months ago, I published a post about the charter schools in Minneapolis, which are expanding rapidly in that city, replacing unionized teachers with young and inexperienced Teach for America teachers.

The burgeoning of charters in Minneapolis has something to do with a very powerful family named Kramer. EduShyster reported that the family is a powerful organization for corporate reform. She writes:

Readers: meet the Minneapolis Kramers. Father Joel is the former publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and took home $8 million when the paper was sold to McClatchy. These days he presides over and a brood of young rephormers. Son Matt is the president of Teach for America, in charge of TFA’s “overall performance, operations, and effectiveness.” Son Eli, another former TFAer, is the executive director of Hiawatha Academies, a mini charter empire in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, daughter-in-law Katie Barrett-Kramer is a former TFAer who now serves as director of academic excellence at Charter School Partners, a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the number of charters in Minneapolis, including the ones her brother-in-law runs.

Now I have acquired a deep thirst just writing about the Kramer siblings and their dedication to the civil right$ i$$ue of our time. But there’s still more. Matt, who with his brother attended the tony Breck School (which I suspect is likely not a ‘no excuses’ school), also sits on numerous rephorm boards. Matt is the chair of the board of 50Canand a member of the board of Students for Education Reform.

EduShyster returned to the charter-TFA empire of the Kramer family in another post.

Who knew that one family could create a separate school system in a major American city?

In my post on the Minneapolis charters, I noted a study by Myron Orfield and the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School, which was very critical of the charters, saying that they were more segregated than public schools and had worse results. John Bloomberg, an education writer for Bloomberg News, is also cited in the same post, expressing astonishment at the hyper-segregation in the charter schools of Minneapolis.

Now charter advocates have challenged these claims.

Orfield responds to them here.


Charter School Partners’ (CSP) January 6 blog post titled Minnesota Charters 2014: Part I: Building a high-impact charter sector, Closing the opportunity/achievement gap cited recent work by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity (IMO) updating our work on charter schools in the Twin Cities. The post seriously misrepresents some of our findings and we request that you make this response available on your web site along with your original post. (Readers are invited to download IMO’s original study on charters in the Twin Cities and two updates at

Most importantly, the post implies that our work does not properly control for the fact that charters serve higher percentages of low-income students. This is simply not true. Our work shows that charters still under-perform their traditional counterparts even after controlling for the effects of school poverty rates on reading and math performance.

Two methods were used. A multiple regression analysis demonstrated that charter elementary schools have lower achievement rates on average after controlling for student poverty, race, special education needs, limited language abilities, student mobility rates and school size. Indeed, contrary to the claims in the January 6 post, the most recent statistical results imply that all else equal, the gap between charters and traditional schools widened between 2010-11 and 2012-13. In 2012-13 the proficiency rate for charters was 11.2 percentage points lower than traditional schools for math and 5.9 percentage points lower for reading. In 2010-11 the gaps were just 7.5 for math and 4.4 for reading.

Consistent with the earlier studies and other research, the multiple regression analysis showed that student poverty (measured by eligibility for free or reduced price lunch) was the dominant factor in the performance of schools in 2012-13. In 2012-13, the math performance of students in only 31 percent of charter schools was better than what would be expected given their poverty rate alone. The rest, 69 percent, under-performed expectations. Consistent with the regression analysis, this represented a significant step back from 2010-11 when 51 percent of charters out-performed expectations. Similarly, the reading performance of students in just 36 percent of charter schools was better than expected (compared to 39 percent in the 2010-11 analysis).

These results and other analysis in the report also refute the statement that the IMO “study ignores the impact of that high-achieving charters are having on these critical populations.” IMO’s study does in fact acknowledge that a few high-poverty charters are performing very well. But it also shows that a larger number of high-poverty charters are performing very poorly, even when accounting for the fact that they serve mostly low-income students. In fact, Charts 5 and 6 in the report clearly show that there are more students in under-performing charters than in the high-achieving ones.

While IMO acknowledges that a few charters are doing well, CSP essentially ignores all of the charters that are doing poorly. Only the “Strategic Framework” schematic in the post acknowledges poorly performing charters at all and it does so with an illustration that badly understates the size of the problem. Even in CSP’s own chart later in the post (“Minneapolis Charter Schools – 3 Year Average”), poorly performing charters greatly outnumber high-performing charters.

CSP is correct when they note that the data now available to IMO does not allow us to fully compare the impact of charter and traditional schools on individual students. However, if positive impacts on individual students are greater in charters then one would expect the proficiency gap between charters and traditionals to narrow over time. Once again, this is not what is happening. Despite the fact that a few charters seem to have shown improvement, the gap has actually widened in recent years. It is also worth noting that the method used in the CREDO study cited in the post does not represent the gold standard of analysis in this field, raising complicated research questions well beyond the scope of these comments that IMO addressed in its original study.

The post also says that, because the IMO study is region-wide, the work “ignores compelling data that show that charters in Minneapolis and St. Paul are significantly outperforming district schools…” We believe the region-wide scale is appropriate for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, charters are growing rapidly in the suburbs and suburban charters now represent about 40 percent of total regional charter school enrollment. In addition, school choice programs—the Choice is Yours Program in particular—make a number of suburban schools available to low-income city students, implying that the proper comparison group is in fact regional. (IMO’s work shows that, in contrast with the results for charters, schools available to low-income students through the Choice is Yours Program tend to out-perform their traditional and charter peers after controlling for poverty and other school characteristics.)

Nor does restricting the IMO analysis to Minneapolis and St. Paul provide the kind of “compelling” evidence of superior charter performance that CSP claims. When the statistical analyses described above are repeated for city schools alone the results show no advantages for charters. Not surprisingly, the multiple regression analysis (which controls for poverty and other school characteristics) shows that the gap is narrower in the cities but the results still imply that, all else equal, charters in the cities under-perform their traditional peers. (The gaps are roughly three percentage points for both tests. The coefficients are negative, but not statistically significant. While this is admittedly only weak evidence that city charters do worse, it is certainly not “compelling” evidence that they do better.)

The simpler comparisons controlling only for low-income percentages show similar results. City charters are slightly more likely to perform more poorly than expected given their poverty rates than traditional schools.

Finally, it is important to note that IMO’s studies look at much more than simply school performance (however defined). IMO’s original study and two updates have also examined:

  • Whether the charter system is more or less segregated than traditional schools. They are much more segregated and the situation is not improving. A disturbing proportion of charters in the Twin Cities are essentially single-race schools. In sharp contrast with the traditional system, where the percentage of schools which are integrated has increased steadily, the share of integrated charter schools has been stagnant. As a result, charter school students of all races are much more likely to be attending segregated schools than their counterparts in traditional schools.
  • The effects on the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts of enrollment declines resulting from charters. Rapid enrollment declines hurt the districts because they require costly actions like school closures, teacher and staff cutbacks, and administrative reorganizations. As a result, districts losing students must devote effort and resources to deal with the costs of decline, often to the detriment of other educational priorities. Minneapolis and St. Paul now lose between 15 and 20 percent of their resident students to charters and more than half of total enrollment losses in the last decade have been to charters. As a result, both districts have teetered from one financial crisis to another.
  • Charter school closures. Although data for this is hard to come by, press coverage of closures suggests that charters are more likely to close as the result of financial mismanagement or, in some cases, malfeasance than because of the poor performance that many exhibit.
  • The growing, negative effects of suburban charters on the ability of traditional districts to pursue pro-integrative reforms. Increasing numbers of predominantly white suburban charters are locating near significantly more diverse traditional schools—schools which are often unstable and vulnerable to rapid racial and economic transitions. Whether by intent or not, more and more suburban charters are facilitating white flight from increasingly diverse traditional schools in the suburbs.

CSP seems to have little to say about these topics, only promising to discuss closures in a future post. Test results are not the only thing that schools produce. CSP should abandon its blinkered view and widen its work to include the very significant problems with the state’s current charter model.


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