Friday, February 17, 2006

Charters and segregation

Meanwhile, in other charter news, a new report has come out about how charter schools do nothing to desegregate schools in Michigan. From the co-director of the study's policy center:
"Parents are moving their students from racially segregated (traditionally public) schools to racially segregated charters."

There was another big study by these people a few years ago on the same topic.

My question is, were charter schools ever intended to be forces of racial desegregation? Yes, they should (and do) integrate students economically, but is it such a bad thing if minority parents decide to send their children to schools where the other students look like them?

I keep thinking of an article by Lisa Delpit where she discusses her own daughter's move from a private school in which she is the only black student to a largely black charter school. The effect on her daughter's self esteem was significant, and startling to Delpit. Charter schools are schools of choice -- parents choose to send their children there for any number of reasons. Is that really segregation?

I'm also thinking about the two charter schools I work with -- one had a Latina founding principal, and a large proportion of the faculty and staff there are Latino. At an event last night, graduates of the school greeted many of the parents at the door in Spanish, with kisses on the cheek. Is it any wonder that Latino parents would want to send their children there, and that 60% of the students are Latino?

At the other school, a large proportion of the faculty and staff are black. The school song is an African folk tune, and the school's culture feels distinctly black. Is it any wonder that black parents would want to send their children there, and that 90% of the students are black?

Finally, being a white woman I'm not sure if I should be offended by the idea of the "peer effect" for race. The Harvard Civil Rights Project makes the case that segregation is an evil in itself, but I'm not sure if I buy it, especially in the case of charter schools.

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