Cloaking Inequity: 97.81% of Charter Schools Not "Diverse by Design"

Charter schools are diverse by design? Holy sampling on the dependent variable Batman! All Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) teams are good because look at the top of the standings! All music is great because look at the Top 40 songs! All college professors are great (or could be) because of the top 2.19% on ratemyprofessor.com

The Century Foundation recently release a report about “Diverse-by-Design Charter Schools.” by Halley Potter and Kimberly Quick

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I first met Halley Potter (far right) on MSNBC’s MHP Show

They found,

  • Intentionally diverse charter schools represent a small slice of the charter sector (about 2 percent of the charter schools examined for this report)
  • The inventory identifies broader trends related to diversity in the charter sector. One in five charter schools (1,026 schools) showed any consideration of diversity in their school model.
  • School integration has not been a priority for the charter school sector at large. At the same time, the schools highlighted in the report show how the flexibility of the charter school model can be leveraged for diversity if designed to do so.

So, all NFL, NBA and MLB teams can be great, but they are not. All professors could be fantastic, but only 2% are? Despite all this bad news, they still conclude,

The schools highlighted in the report show how the flexibility of the charter school model can be leveraged to promote diversity. Though a small fraction of the charter school sector, the number of diverse-by-design charter schools is growing. These schools provide a variety of models and strategies for integration that could help other schools—charter, district, or magnet—seeking to enroll and serve diverse groups of students.

Am I the only person saying “Who cares, why are you wasting my time?” Wait… for… it… “This case study is part of The Century Foundation’s project on charter school diversity, funded by The Walton Family Foundation.”

I asked my doctoral student (Miguel Sanchez) to take a look at the report and answer four questions.

1) How many were diverse out of total?

Only 125 out of the 5,692 charter schools that were reviewed met the definition of intentionally diverse (Table 1, p.6). Only 2.19% of the schools used in this case study have expressed a minimum commitment to diversity as part of their strategy to close the equity gap. Likewise, only 2.19% of the charter schools in this study have publicized a strong commitment to diversity; the other 97.81% of schools did not promote, encourage, and welcome through their social media venues the diversity that can reflect a proportional representation of the local school’s demographics.

2) Did they only look at websites?

This case study used “complete website review for 6,281 schools.” (p. 4). Also, this case study used “contact information and send this survey to 971 schools, offering schools a small monetary reward for answering the survey. They received 86 survey responses” (p.4). In addition, this case study “also looked at the membership of the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition (DCSC) as an indication of commitment to diversity” (p.4).

3) How diverse were the campuses relative to nearby schools? 

This case did not compare the 6,281 charter school campuses to nearby traditional public schools to determine if the diversity was similar to the proportionally represented nearby public schools.

4) Does diverse mean concentration? 

In this case study, diverse doesn’t mean concentration. In fact, the school’s commitment to diversity was judged as strong if it met one of the following criteria: the school’s website had to receive a high score on their commitment to diversity (p.10). Second, their charter school’s survey response showed a high level of commitment to diversity through their use of enrollment and recruitment strategies to achieve a racially or economically diverse student body; and the school’s website had at least a medium score for commitment (p.10). Third, the charter school is a member of the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition (p.10).

Just in case you want to know where the 125 of 5,692 diverse charter schools are, here you go.

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What?! No Idaho?

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone and when they present their evidence for their argument and it actually makes the case for what you are trying to communicate to them (See With Charter Schools, A Step Back to Segregation) then they don’t even realize it?

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Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

In addition to educational accomplishments, Julian Vasquez Heilig has held a variety of research and practitioner positions in...